What makes people sick? Burmese refugee children's perceptions of health and illness Academic Article uri icon


  • Understanding children's perceptions of health and illness is important for health promotion so that age-appropriate health care services and preventative health programs can be developed. In this article, we discuss the perceptions and experiences of health and illness among refugee children, their health knowledge and ways they regain their health when ill. In-depth interviewing and the drawing methods were employed. Twelve Burmese refugee children, aged between 8 and 12 years, were interviewed individually. The children were knowledgeable about what keeps them healthy and what makes them ill, yet they had difficulties in providing appropriate explanations. The children employed more of the professional model in their attempt to understand health and illness. This may be due to the acculturation process that the children have absorbed in their new homeland. This article contributes to limited literature on the health of refugee children. Our results may be used for the implementation of specific health education/promotion programs for refugee children. Our findings are also useful for the provision of sensitive health care for children of refugee backgrounds in Australia and elsewhere.

publication date

  • 2015