Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

Degree Program

Public Health Sciences with a specialization in Health Promotion, PhD

Committee Chair

Harris, Muriel

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Brown, Aishia

Committee Member

Brown, Aishia

Committee Member

Harris, Lesley

Committee Member

Washington, Ahmad

Author's Keywords

public health; youth; immigrant; refugee; wellbeing; racism; social justice


Young refugees are a vital and growing population in the United States that experience health inequities that make them vulnerable to adverse health outcomes. The health inequities that are evident between refugees and the general population elucidate the disparate power relations between the outcomes of the colonial past and postcolonial present. Although research shows that colonialism and their more recent experience of racism may have adverse long-term impacts on young people's health, it is essential to understand the contexts that shape their wellbeing. While the westernized model of wellbeing focuses on the individual, this study prioritizes the prevention of illness and maintenance of wellbeing at the different levels of the socioecological model- individual, community, organizational, and policy levels. This dissertation explored the African Great Lakes region refugee youths' experience with wellbeing, how they interpret their experience, and the meanings ascribed to wellbeing. A descriptive qualitative study used twelve in-depth interviews, two-member checking focus groups, and observational field notes for data collection to understand the influence of holistic wellbeing on African Great Lakes refugee youth. Data coding and analysis was conducted in Dedoose using the constructivist grounded theory approach. The study findings suggest that the African Great Lakes Region youth view the combination of physical, mental, social, and cultural health to maintain wellbeing. Also, participants interpret wellbeing on a community level rather than an individual level. The findings also suggest that colonialism is a form of racism that shapes and hinders young refugees from maintaining wellbeing. Racism has a huge influence on Black refugee youth from Africa which was evident in the refugee health policies, education system, refugee resettlement process, and the social determinants of health. The study offers implications for research, policy, and practice. There is a need for partnership between community programs and immigrant communities. This study provides practical recommendations for developing programs to educate and enlighten youth refugees on the use and benefits of health insurance. This study informs strategies for developing and implementing policies to provide more funding for culturally competent refugee programs.