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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 252-258

Using simple acupressure and breathing techniques to improve mood, sleep and pain management in refugees: a peer-to-peer approach in a Rohingya refugee camp

1 Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA
2 FH/MTI Volunteer Clinical Instructor, Joint Rohingya Response Program, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
3 FH/MTI Programme Officer, Joint Rohingya Response Program, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
4 Registered Nurse, FH/MTI Health Services Support Officer, Joint Rohingya Response Program, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
5 FH/MTI Programme Support Officer, Joint Rohingya Response Program, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
6 FH/MTI Interpreter, Joint Rohingya Response Program, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_13_19

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Many of the 626,500 Rohingya refugees in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh (OCHA, 2019) suffer from feelings of hopelessness, excessive worry, insomnia and somatic complaints such as headache and total body pain (UNHCR, 2018; Riley et al., 2017; Tay et al., 2019; Milton et al., 2017). The provision of mental health and psychosocial support and treatment within camp remains inadequate and under-resourced (UNHCR, 2019; UNHCR, 2018; Tay et al., 2019). This innovative project utilises Rohingya community health workers (CHWs) to pilot the use of peer-to-peer teaching of low-cost tools for potential alleviation of mental health complaints. CHWs learned six simple relaxation techniques: four acupressure points and two breathing exercises. A cohort of 13 CHWs taught 46 community members these techniques, advised participants to use them daily for one week and completed a feedback questionnaire with each participant. In total, 78% of participants, aged 22–75 years, reported that the techniques were ‘very good’. A total of 70% reported the techniques to be ‘very easy’ and used them daily during the week. During a reflective conversation, the CHWs shared specific cases where the complaints of difficulty in sleeping, stress and pain had improved. Both men and women found the techniques easy to teach. The CHWs felt that the community would benefit from utilising these techniques throughout the camp. This pilot project is inadequate in scope and design to claim effect attribution. However, the positive findings warrant a more rigorous examination of how these low-cost techniques and peer-to-peer teaching may empower self-care amongst refugees in managing their mental health complaints. *Both the authors contributed equally.

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