Access and utilization of reproductive health care services by Syrian refugee women in Lebanon presents a challenge, with antenatal care enrollment recently reported at about 50% by UNICEF, and only one third of women reporting easy access to reproductive health services. Intermittent maternity care increases rates of antenatal complications, with high rates of preterm birth among the Syrian refugee population (26%) in addition to neonatal infections and asphyxia. Major barriers to utilization of antenatal and neonatal care are cited as cost of health care, transport to health care facilities and lack of female health care providers.
The low utilization of antenatal care and the risk of neonatal complications amidst the Syrian crisis call for feasible interventions to increase access, provision and continuity of antenatal care to prevent further excess mortality in this refugee population. Aiming to contextualize the use of technology with the health beliefs, health experiences, and social and health networks of refugees, this project explores the feasibility and acceptability of using digital technology to promote antenatal health among Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Results from focus groups with women living in informal settlements in rural Lebanon informed the piloting of a community-run radio show called “Allo Sohtik,” facilitated through synchronous IVR to promote antenatal health. These were found to influence community agency, community dynamics, and healthcare provider/refugee relationships. Through improving mutual trust and healthcare provider understanding, community radio has the potential to promote health and improve healthcare utilization by this marginalized community.