Catherine A. O'Donnell
Migration is a reality of today’s world, with over one billion migrants worldwide. While many choose to move voluntarily, others are forced to migrate due to economic reasons or to flee war, conflict, or persecution. Such migrants often find themselves in precarious and marginalized situations—particularly asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented or irregular migrants. While often viewed as a single group, the legal status and entitlements of these three groups are different. This has implications for their ability to access health care; in addition, rights and entitlements vary across the 28 countries of the European Union and across different parts of national health systems. The lack of entitlement to receive care, including primary and secondary care, is a significant barrier for many asylum seekers and refugees and an even greater barrier for undocumented migrants. Other barriers include different health profiles and awareness of chronic disease risk amongst migrants; awareness of the organization of health systems in host countries; and language and communication. The use of professional interpreters can help to overcome communication barriers, but entitlement to free interpreting services is highly variable. Host countries need to consider how to ensure their health systems are “migrant-friendly”: solutions include provision of professional interpreters; ensuring that health care staff are aware of migrants’ rights to access health care; and increasing knowledge of migrants in relation to the organization of the health care system in their host country and how to access care, for example through the use of patient navigators. However, perhaps one of the greatest facilitators for migrants will be a more favorable political situation, which stops demonizing people who are forced to migrate due to situations out of their control.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health. Please check back later for the full article.
In 1978, at an international conference in Kazakhstan, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) put forward a policy proposal entitled Primary Health Care (PHC). Adopted by all the member states of the WHO, this proposal was the seed by which governments and people began to change their views about how good health was obtained and sustained. The Alma-Ata Declaration (as it is known after the city in which the meeting was held) committed WHO member states to take action to achieve the WHO definition of health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Arguing that good health was not merely the result of biomedical advances, provision of health services, and professional care, the Declaration stated that health was a human right, that the inequality of health status among the world’s populations was unacceptable, and that people had a right and duty to become involved in the planning and implementation of their own health care. It proposed that this policy be supported through collaboration with other government sectors to ensure health was recognized as a key to development planning.
Under the banner call of “Health for All by the Year 2000,” WHO and UNICEF set out to translate into practice their vision of how health could be improved. The task confronted a number of critical challenges to implementation. These challenges included defining PHC and translating PHC into practice, developing frameworks to translate equity into action, experiencing the potentials and limitations of community participation, and seeking finances to support the transformation of health systems. Global, national, and non-governmental organization (NGO) programs attempted to balance the PHC vision and the reality of health service delivery success by monitoring and evaluating health impact and cost effectiveness. After 40 years, PHC policy has retained its commitment to social justice but has reduced its broad advocacy of health in overall development to focus on universal health coverage encompassing commitment to equity and community participation through support of community health workers.
Rachel Humphris and Hannah Bradby
The health status of refugees and asylum seekers varies significantly across the European region. Differences are attributed to the political nature of the legal categories of “asylum seeker” and “refugee”; the wide disparities in national health services; and the diversity in individual characteristics of this population including age, gender, socioeconomic background, country of origin, ethnicity, language proficiency, migration trajectory, and legal status. Refugees are considered to be at risk of being or becoming relatively “unhealthy migrants” compared to those migrating on the basis of economic motives, who are characterized by the “healthy migrant effect.” Refugees and asylum seekers are at risk to the drivers of declining health associated with settlement such as poor diet and housing. Restricted access to health care whether from legal, economic, cultural, or language barriers is another likely cause of declining health status. There is also evidence to suggest that the “embodiment” of the experience of exclusion and marginalization that refugee and asylum seekers face in countries of resettlement significantly drives decrements in the health status of this population.
Saida M. Abdi
The psychosocial well-being of migrant children has become an urgent issue facing many Western countries as the number of migrant children in the population increases rapidly and health-care systems struggle to support them. Often, these children arrive with extensive exposure to trauma and loss before facing additional stressors in the host country. Yet, these children do not access mental health support even when available due to multiple barriers. These barriers include cultural and linguistic barriers, the primacy of resettlement needs, and the stigma attached to mental health illness. In order to improve mental health services for migrant children, there is a need to move away from focusing on trauma and mental health symptoms and to look instead at migrant children’s well-being across multiple domains, including activities that can promote or diminish psychological well-being. Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees (TST-R) is an example of an approach that has succeeded in overcoming these barriers by adopting a culturally relevant and comprehensive approach to mental health care.
Maria Cecília de Souza Minayo and Saul Franco
Violence is a problem that accompanies the trajectory of humanity, but it presents itself in different ways in each society and throughout its historical development. Despite having different meanings according to the field of knowledge from which it is addressed and the institutions that tackle it, there are some common elements in the definition of this phenomenon. It is acknowledged as the intentional use of force and power by individuals, groups, classes, or countries to impose themselves on others, causing harm and limiting or denying rights. Its most frequent and visible forms include homicides, suicides, war, and terrorism, but violence is also articulated and manifested in less visible forms, such as gender violence, domestic violence, and enforced disappearances.
Although attention to the consequences of different forms of violence has always been part of health services, its formal and global inclusion in health sector policies and guidelines is very recent. It was only in 1996 that the World Health Organization acknowledged it as a priority in the health programs of all countries. Violence affects individual and collective health; causes deaths, injuries, and physical and mental trauma; decreases the quality of life; and impairs the well-being of people, communities, and nations. At the same time, violence poses problems for health researchers trying to understand the complexity of its causes, its dynamics, and the different ways of dealing with it. It also poses serious challenges to health systems and services for the care of victims and perpetrators and the formulation of interdisciplinary, multi-professional, inter-sectoral, and socially articulated confrontation and prevention policies and programs.