Faculty of Medicine

– Migrants are healthier than Norwegians

According to researcher and doctor, Esperanza Diaz, Migrants are healthier than Norwegians in general. Norwegians may have something to learn from the migrants´ lifestyle.

Diaz Symposium
TALKS ON MIGRATION: Esperanza Diaz (Nr. 3 from left) talked about migration and global health challenges during the symposium.
Tord Rø

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Stereotypes and negative focus is common in public discussions on migration. Associate professor and doctor Esperanza Diaz at the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen (UiB), would like to correct some myths about migration and health.

“In fact, migrants in Norway are healthier than Norwegians in average, in spite of huge differences between each group,” Diaz says.

“Migration health is not first and foremost about infections and exotic disease. It is more about chronic diseases. Even if migrants have more of some diseases than Norwegians in general, for example diabetes, they have, for example, less cancer,” Diaz explains.

Diaz was one of the speakers at the symposium The Transformative Consequences of International Migration, hosted by IMER and Global Challenges at UiB.

– Can learn from migrants

Diaz adds that migrants use health service far less than Norwegians, in general, and have a lower intake of medicines. In spite of some having a lower than optimal use of the health services, according to Diaz it has also to do with the fact that they are healthier.

In addition to seeking to better understand the reasons why migrants see out Norwegian health services and trying to improve this situation, Diaz would like  to start looking at why migrants have better health, so that this knowledge could benefit everyone in Norway. She would like to move away from the focus on the negative sides of migration.

Migration is a health factor

Diaz points to the fact that migration and health is about more than just visiting the doctor. It concerns everything from legal rights to diet.

To understand migrant health, one must be able to understand the intricate and complicated mechanisms that are part of the migration process.

“The most important thing is to incorpoate knowledge of migration, health, cultural competence and cultural diversity into the curriculum for medicine and health studies, so that we can help to prevent gaps between the groups in our society”, says Esperanza Diaz.