Atlantic Community Gathers in Jordan to Focus on Displacement and Health

Tala Al-Rousan, MD, MPH, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health, grew up in Jordan, one of the world's top refugee hosting countries. As such, she is especially aware of the struggles related to displacement.

“I believe that displacement is a defining issue of our time and not much is being done about it,” said Al-Rousan, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Diego. “I also believe that as Atlantic Fellows working towards fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies, it is at the core of our work and mission to serve communities such as the displaced and low and middle income hosting countries.” 

In collaboration with the Atlantic Institute—which supports a global community of seven Atlantic Fellows programs—and an affinity group on migration, Al-Rousan and Rania Tarazi, Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity, co-designed and co-led Atlantic’s first thematic forum on displacement and health, Crossing Borders: Displacement and the Effects on Health, in Jordan, October 7–12, 2019.

Grounded in the history and current realities of Jordan, the five-day program focused on the impact of displacement on health. It included numerous field trips, including visits to a university near the Jordanian-Syrian border and refugee camps, as well as participation in creative activities such as cooking and connecting with refugees and the local community.

“The entire forum was very well received,” said Al-Rousan. “There were a lot of emotions. Everybody was being candid, passionate, humane, fully engaged and motivated to take action once they go back to where they live and work.”

Nineteen Atlantic Fellows from around the world, including activists, academics, artists and change-makers, as well as staff, program directors and leadership from the Atlantic community, attended the forum.

“The challenges of displacement on health are significant,” said Victor Valcour, MD, PhD, executive director, Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI). “It was powerful to see the Atlantic community, including representatives from all seven Atlantic Fellows programs and the Institute, come together to learn and to take action to address a global problem.”

Al-Rousan said a highlight of the forum was the moment Christopher G. Oechsli, President and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, announced that the foundation will provide university scholarships to a group of 24 young Syrian refugees who live at Zaatari refugee camp.

“This was one of the happiest moments in my life,” said Al-Rousan. “I felt like the lives of these students are now flourishing. They have been gifted the feelings of hope, faith in humanity, and a university degree that will serve them well in life which will hopefully help them yield healthier and happier lives after all the trauma they have gone through.”

Al-Rousan plans to keep studying the effects of educational support and livelihood interventions on the health and wellbeing of Syrian refugees. She hopes to tell the world that if you invest in refugees, you are investing in a more inclusive, fairer and healthier future for everyone.

“I hope together we can complement each other's efforts and talents to produce a creative, new and exciting product that can resonate with different audiences from all over the world,” said Al-Rousan.

Watch a short documentary film of the Altantic Institute Thematic Forum on Displacement and Health.