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date: 15 December 2017

Obesity and Migration

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.

There are over 230 million international migrants worldwide and this number continues to grow. Migrants tend to have limited access to and knowledge about resources and preventative care in their communities of reception. Nonetheless, they are often in better health by many measures when compared to both native-born people in their communities of reception and those peoples they left behind at their place of origin. With time after arrival, however, immigrants’ health advantages often dissipate, and they experience increases in health problems, especially obesity and diabetes. Obesity and diabetes are chronic diseases that are increasingly prevalent in the overall population as well and are associated with multiple comorbidities and limitations. It may be that immigrants have specific health endowments leading to these health patterns, or that the processes involved in migration, including exposure to new environments, behavioral change, and stress of migration also affect risks of obesity and other chronic conditions. Understanding the health patterns of migrants can be useful in identifying their specific health needs, as well as contributing to our understanding of how specific environments, changes in environments, and individual health endowments interplay to shape the long-term health of populations.