CDC awards Georgia State $3.75 million grant for research on refugee, migrant health

5 things to know about the world's refugees and migrants, according to the World Health Organization

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded Georgia State University a $3.75 million grant to address the health and health disparities affecting America's refugee and migrant communities.

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The grant falls under the agency's Prevention Research Center funding cycle, which announced public health prevention research funding for 25 academic institutions across the country.

According to the CDC, funded PRCs “will develop, test, and/or evaluate public health interventions for wide application, particularly in underserved communities, based on the latest science.”

Other Atlanta academic institutions to receive CDC's prevention research grants include Emory University and Morehouse School of Medicine.

The GSU center, which will be based at the university's Perimeter College campus in the city of Clarkston—"the most ethnically diverse square mile in America" fondly known as the "Ellis Island of the South"—opens Monday, Sept. 30.

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"We are deeply honored to join the CDC's Prevention Research Center network, which has played a vital role in advancing public health in this country for 35 years," Michael Eriksen, interim vice president for research and economic development at Georgia State, said in a news release. "Nationally, very little is being done to address issues affecting refugee communities, and having a campus inside Clarkston presents a tremendous opportunity to work with a population that's in need of support and research."

The DeKalb County community is a unique haven for refugees and migrants in a state in Georgia, a place "where residents can encounter Vietnamese churches, Buddhist and Hindu temples, multi-ethnic mosques and Eritrean Methodist congregations within a mile's walk," according to Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry.

» RELATED: Georgia's 'Ellis Island of the South' reacts to Trump's travel ban

Now, “with its focus on community-based participation, the Prevention Research Center will provide opportunities for our residents to collaborate with Georgia State faculty and access much-needed resources and care,” he said.

The new center will be led by Daniel Whitaker, GSU professor and co-director of the National SafeCare Training and Research Center, whose team will primarily focus on developing “the first systematic effort in the nation to develop culturally and linguistically relevant care and interventions for migrant and refugee children.”

The PRC hopes to work with community partners, including faculty and students from other schools and colleges to identify and address the unique public health issues and interventions that can be replicated in other communities.

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“Mental health problems among refugees are very common,” Whitaker said, noting young children are particularly vulnerable. “And the need for public health interventions focused on refugee mental health continues to grow.”

According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 258 million international migrants—and 763 million internal migrants—around the globe. Sixty-five million people are forcibly displaced from their homes.

“The recent large-scale population movement has posed epidemiological and health system challenges, to which public health and health systems must adjust,” WHO reports on its website. “The access of refugees and migrants to quality, essential health services is of paramount importance to rights-based health systems, global health security and to public efforts aimed at reducing health inequities.”

Learn more about the GSU PRC at

Fiza Pirani is a web producer and writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She is also currently investigating immigrant and refugee mental health stigma and health care access as a recipient of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. If you’d like to discuss the subject, please email her at