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What are the health effects of migration?

Esperanza Diaz was the principal investigator of a research team that evaluated the impact of factors such as length of stay, immigrant group and other sociodemographic variables on immigrant health.

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Globally, the scale and extent of international migration is increasing dramatically. However, immigrant health status can vary greatly across different groups. To address immigrant health needs, health providers require more information in order to establish better prevention and management strategies. Associate Professor Esperanza Diaz, from the General Practice research group at the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care (IGS) at the University of Bergen (UiB) was the principal investigator of a team that undertook a register-based study to merge data from different sources in order to access factors affecting immigrant health status.

Adapting health care for cultural diversity

The researchers identified different immigrant groupings including refugees, labour immigrants, family reunification immigrants and education immigrants. Length of stay in Norway was also determined to be a factor affecting multimorbidity, or the co-occurrence of two or more chronic medical conditions in a given person.

In this study Diaz and colleagues focused on exploring the association between multimorbidity and reason for migration (immigrant group) as well as comparing the impact of length of stay in Norway and other sociodemographic variables on multimorbidity prevalence. Their findings showed among other things that “for all groups, multimorbidity doubled after 5 years of living in Norway”. The researchers hope that their results will help to “untangle and target health disparities”, and ultimately to reduce multimorbidity. They conclude that: “Health providers need to ensure tailor-made preventive and management strategies that take into account pre-migrations and post-migration experiences for immigrants in order to address migrant needs.”

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Diaz says that she and her colleagues have published several articles about immigrant’s health and immigrants’ use of primary health care in the past few years. She notes that with the current political situation in Europe and Norway, primary health care should put into action steps based the evidence she and others have now documented: that immigrants are, as a group, healthier than Norwegian born, but that Norwegian public health care has to be adapted to cultural diversity to ensure that the most vulnerable groups of immigrants receive the help they need and avoid the documented trend towards the rapid deterioration in health with longer stays in Norway (more than 5 years).