In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Immigrant Populations

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Handbooks and Guides
  • Journals
  • The Immigrant Health Paradox
  • Surveillance
  • Refugee Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Resilience and Vulnerabilities
  • Acculturation and Adaptation
  • Family
  • Social Justice Perspectives

Public Health Immigrant Populations
Hector G. Balcazar, Holly J. Mata
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0034


The phenomenon of immigration is as old as humanity itself. Movement of people into and out of their habitats has been a necessity and a way of adapting to new environments. As boundaries and borders became increasingly recognized in the development of villages, regions, countries, and lifestyles, the concept of immigration became an established cultural, political, and economic reality worldwide. Movement of people is by no means a new phenomenon and has implications in diverse realms including legal, social, and economic arenas. The demography of immigration provided the impetus to view the immigrant in the context of an intricate and elaborate pattern of behaviors that had direct consequences for the well-being of that immigrant, as well as sociocultural implications for the new and former environments. This article examines the phenomenon of immigrant populations as a public health imperative. Taking a social justice approach, this article envisions the immigration experience as a complex set of positive and negative consequences for people as well as for the places and countries that are affected by their movement. Through reference works, textbooks, and journals and literature that address immigrant populations from public health and social justice perspectives, this article highlights the public health significance in the context of the complex array of challenges and opportunities experienced by immigrant populations individually, collectively, regionally, and globally.

General Overviews

The World Health Organization (WHO) has many comprehensive resources related to immigrant health; both WHO 2010 and WHO 2008 provide strategies and frameworks to promote immigrant health. Two such frameworks are presented in the works highlighted by the WHO in the citations that follow. WHO 2010 provides an operational framework consisting of four thematic areas: monitoring migrant’s health; policy and legal frameworks; migrant-sensitive health systems; and networks, partnerships, and multicountry frameworks. WHO 2008 includes six thematic areas as a strategic approach for addressing migrant health as a worldwide phenomenon: (1) migration flows in the globalized world; (2) basic principles of a public health approach; (3) determinants; (4) health issues; (5) health systems; and (6) strategies for improving health of migrants. McKay, et al. 2003 provides a comprehensive literature review, and Castañeda 2010 offers an anthropological perspective on immigration and health.

  • Castañeda, Heide. 2010. Immigration and health: Conceptual, methodological, and theoretical propositions for applied anthropology. NAPA Bulletin 34.1: 6–27.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1556-4797.2010.01049.x

    An anthropological perspective to the study of immigrant health. Many topical areas are covered including conceptual, methodological, and theoretical insights for the study of migration and health. Health-care and immigration policy shape many of the forces affecting delivery of health services for different legal versus illegal or unauthorized immigrants.

  • McKay, Laura, Sally Macintyre, and Anne Ellaway. 2003. Migration and health: A review of international literature. Occasional Paper 12. Glasgow, UK: Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit.

    A comprehensive review is included of the international literature on migration and health. This review brings an epidemiological and public health description of the morbidity and mortality rates of immigrant groups from around the world and their patterns of mobility between and within countries. Many factors are identified that affect the complex migration process.

  • World Health Organization. 2008. Health of migrants: Report by the Secretariat. WHO A61/12. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

    The report presents twenty-four resolutions that describe the global picture of the health of migrants. Six thematic areas suggest strategic approaches for addressing migrant health as an important worldwide phenomenon.

  • World Health Organization. 2010. Health of migrants—The way forward: Report of a global consultation, Madrid, Spain, 3–5 March 2010. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

    This report is inspired by the resolution on the Health of Migrants endorsed by the Sixty-First World Health Assembly of WHO. The document provides the basis for an in-depth analysis of the concept of migrant health as a global phenomenon.

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