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Health Issues Faced by ImmigrantsResearch Paper

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Migration and Health

Definitions & Concepts

Migration-when an individual moves from one center of living to another over a socially significant distance (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

It is the movement of an individual or a group of persons across a political or administrative border from a geographical unit to another for permanent or temporary residence (DMP, 2004).

International migration- an instance where migration occurs across a national border (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

Circular migration- the movement of migrants (the people migrating) who take residence in one country for a short period of time before going back their country of origin (DMP, 2004).

Irregular migration-this is a type of migration that does not conform to any policies, rules or regulations of countries. Irregular migration includes human trafficking which can result in migrants hiding in host countries. Individual migrant health and public health risks are increased in cases of irregular migration (DMP, 2004).

Mobility pattern -- a trend of migration that repeats itself over and over again is referred to as mobility pattern. Movement or migration from poor to rich countries, or rural to urban centers, are just a few examples of mobility patterns (DMP, 2004).

Health-Health refers to a state of social, mental and physical well-being, and not just the mere absence of an infirmity or disease. In terms of migration, health in this context entails the social, mental and physical well-being of the mobile populations and other migrants (DMP, 2004).

Public health-this is the process of protecting communities and populations from diseases or establishing programs and policies that promote healthy living environments for every member of the community (DMP, 2004).

Psychosocial-this is an approach or a way of understanding and then managing human behavior and thus their wellness, placing equal importance on both social factors and individual psychological factors (DMP, 2004).

Trauma -- a wound to the mind or the body that causes psychological or physical injury, inhibiting normative actions and thus requiring treatment or healing. Trauma is closely associated to mental health and stress problems. Serious or repeated trauma can be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress syndrome (DMP, 2004).

Migration health-this is a specialized branch of health sciences, that features a focus on the well-being of communities and migrants in nations or regions of destination, transit, origin and return. It has a double focus, in that, it addresses both the public health concerns of the host communities and the health needs of individual migrants (DMP, 2004).

Health and migration

Migration has traditionally played a key role in molding societies and bringing about demographic changes (Reyes et al., 2014). Trends in migration flows can greatly fluctuate over time, with both the composition and size of migrant communities reflecting historical and current patterns of migration trends (Reyes et al., 2014).

Migration affects all the countries of the European Union. And it is a phenomenon that has a double influence on both the public health of host communities and the individual health of the migrants (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). Infectious diseases are still very pertinent in the migration context (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). Additionally, experiences during the course of travel and in the destination countries have the potential of negatively impacting the migrants' health (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). Despite these two different contexts and the two different environments that both the migrants and host communities live in, they eventually end up having similar health problems (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

Intervention Strategy for the Migrant Health Problem

There is an increasing global awareness and attention towards the health of migrants, which reflects the realization of the need for better and changed health systems to adapt to the increasingly varied populations (Report, p.2)


Health of the Migrants is influenced by several factors (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010):

The environment or conditions of the country of origin prior to the start of migration (for instance, lack of quality healthcare, different nutritional exposures, war, violence, torture, and the high prevalence of infectious diseases in many poor countries).

The conditions during the transit (for example, stress, violence, hunger, racism, psychosocial burdens and separation from family).

The conditions in the destination country, both the immediate and environment (e.g. feeling foreign, racism, language barriers, separation from family) and the conditions that can have an impact on future generations (e.g. different cultural and social ways of life, continuing language and comprehension problems, racism, social standing and lower educational status).

Health Issues of Immigrants in Germany

It has been noted frequently that immigrants usually have mortality advantage over host populations (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). This phenomenon is referred to as the "Healthy Migrant Effect," and it is due to the requirement that a migrant laborer should have good general health for him to be considered for work or residence (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

Changes to the initial risks that were brought about by the movement of the migrants, and growth of new risks manifesting because of different lag times, can bring about risks that are different from those facing the rest of the population in the host country (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

In spite of the few health advantages, immigrant populations are generally categorized as vulnerable groups in the health context (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). The needs of the immigrants should thus be given the right kind of attention in health research, so that excess risks of particular immigrant populations can be identified and the high risk populations targeted (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

Immigrant populations differ from the bulk of the population in two ways; their utilization of health resources and their health-associated behavior (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). Many have different social and cultural ways of life and often have different understanding of health and sickness. This may result in disparities in health-related habits in areas such as living and working environments, nutrition, smoking and alcohol consumption (Reeske, Spallek & Razum, 2009; Oort et al., 2006; Bhopal et al., 2004).

Differences in health of migrant populations compared to that of host populations could be due to social deprivation, health-related habits, different exposures or different genetic compositions (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). Disparities in health outcomes can also serve as good indicators for the absence of prevention, diagnosis and/or sufficient treatment of disease. Of key interest are the studies that have shown differentials in terms of access to healthcare (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

Example - 1: Children of Turkish immigrants appear to have marginally increased risks for Hodgkin disease, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma compared to native German children (Spallek et al., 2008).

Example -- 2: Foreign women have higher maternal mortality compared to native German women (Razum et al., 1999; Razum & Zeeb, 2004; Razum et al., 2008).

Immigrants of Germany:

Infant mortality among immigrants is still relatively high for immigrant women compared to native German women, despite the increase in access to healthcare (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

Studies on participation of children in regular health screening tests also showed lower participation rates within immigrant groups in Germany (Windorfer and Bruns, 2002; Stadt, 2004; Zeeb et al., 2004). Studies in the city of Bielefeld (Zeeb et al., 2004), and the city of Berlin (Delekat, 2003), among school growing children showed that children born of immigrants had lower immunization rates and lower participation in routine health checks, emphasizing the need to improve information strategies aimed at immigrants to increase their participation in the German health system (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

Differentials in statistics are indicators for low participation even in prevention programs and do persist even in immigrants populations who were born in Germany (Geiger and Razum, 2006). The lower participation of immigrants may be due to several reasons that cause specific access barriers (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). Such barriers occur in different ways based in the religious or cultural origins, background, language abilities, length of residency, education, gender, and social status of immigrant populations concerned (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).

The difference between the health differences of Germany and those of the countries of origin can also pose problems since the immigrants can find it difficult to access or comprehend the knowledge available in prevention programs and to identify the right entry points to the health system (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). This may be attributed to lack of understanding if the German language, which hinders communication between immigrants and healthcare professionals (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010). Disparities in the contexts of health and diseases particularly among Muslim immigrants (Ilkilic, 2002), can lead to a lower or ineffective use of healthcare services. Some immigrant populations have a more pain-based depiction of signs and symptoms (Koch, 1996), which could give physicians a false perception of the underlying disease, thus giving incorrect diagnosis.


Immigrants are heterogenic population sand thus have heterogenic health problems. Some of them might have specific health conditions (such as infectious diseases); however most of the health problems faced by immigrants are similar to those of the autochthonous populations. This is particularly true for immigrants who have stayed for long periods in the new country and for the descendants of immigrant populations (Spallek, Zeeb, Razum, 2010).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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