In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Migrant Health

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Models, Frameworks, and Definitions
  • Integration and Acculturation of Immigrants
  • Healthy Immigrant Effect
  • Ethics and Gender in Migrant Health
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Infectious Disease
  • Migrant Worker Health and the Health Impacts of Circular Migration
  • Irregular Migrants, Detention, and Deportation
  • Health Equity and Right to Health for Migrants
  • Policy and Health
  • Primary Health Care Resources
  • Clinical Practice Guidelines
  • Priority Areas for Future Work on Migrant Health

Public Health Migrant Health
Kevin Pottie, Kamila Premji
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 November 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0064


Migration is a historic process that has increased dramatically in scale and scope in recent decades. There are more than 214 million international migrants worldwide. This global movement of people has implications for both individual and public health. United Nations Human Development Programme 2009 (cited under Policy and Health) suggests that overall, migration benefits people who move toward increased economic and education opportunities, but migrants also frequently face barriers to local health and social services. In addition to access issues, migrants moving across social and disease prevalence gradients face an array of unique health risks. The UN post-2015 agenda reflects these concerns in its recognition of the gap in funding and research for mobile and undocumented migrants who face increasingly restrictive rights and services. This article will consider general overviews and key reference works on migrant health, as well as textbooks, anthologies, and journals including sections on migrant health services. It will also provide references to definitions in the field of migration, models, the multiple dimensions that contribute to or detract from migrant health, and the role of human rights-based approaches and interdisciplinary approaches in reducing inequities in access and health outcomes for migrant populations. Irregular migrant health references pertaining to priority areas for future funding and research will also be provided. While a limitation of some sections is a paucity of non-Western resources, international and multilingual references are incorporated wherever possible. This article will be of interest to a broad range of readers, including scholars, policymakers, public health professionals, and health-care practitioners.

General Overviews

Migrant health is a relatively new discipline that has emerged from the fields of tropical medicine and public health, medical anthropology, and health equity The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration (Ness and Bellwood 2013) provides a comprehensive, thematic exploration of human migration from prehistory to the present day. As with all new disciplines, the nomenclature surrounding types of migrants, types of migration, and national programs for migrants has been a stumbling block in relation to international comparisons. Gushulak and MacPherson 2006 has helped lay a solid foundation for migrant health nomenclature. In recent years, works by migrant health practitioners such as Walker and Barnett 2007 has provided practical reviews of health conditions that commonly affect migrant health. Most recently, Pottie, et al. 2011 used the GRADE approach (Grading of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) to develop a series of evidence-based clinical recommendations to guide practitioners and public health professionals in serving migrant populations. Content covers: infectious diseases; mental health and physical and emotional maltreatment; chronic non-communicable diseases; and women’s health. Rechel, et al. 2011 provides a European Union perspective to the authors’ overview of migrant health, and the World Migration Report (International Organization for Migration 2013) provides important demographic data on global migration.

  • Gushulak, Brian, and Douglas MacPherson. 2006. Migration medicine and health: Principles and practice. Hamilton, Canada: B. C. Decker

    Explores how travel, complex emergencies, and various forms of migration shape our world and impact health services and public health policies. A useful introduction for university students interested in the role of population mobility and types of migration, migrant health nomenclature, and global burden of disease in the context of population mobility.

  • Ness, Immanuel, and Peter Bellwood, eds. The encyclopedia of global human migration. 5 vols. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071

    Authoritarian source for students and professionals, this five-volume collection (also available online) explores the prominent themes, events, and theoretical foundations of human migration with a global––rather than Western––perspective. It includes thematic interpretations and theories of migration and scholarly interpretations that have reshaped the way historians and social scientists analyze and map the past.

  • International Organization for Migration. World migration report 2013. Geneva, Switzerland: International Organization for Migration.

    The International Organization for Migration is a world leading organization that produces an annual report on world migration. This annual report includes data on demographics and movement of populations for policymakers and academics.

  • Pottie, Kevin, Christina Greenaway, John Feightner, et al. 2011. Evidence-based guidelines for new immigrants and refugees. Canadian Medical Association Journal 183.12: E824–E8925.

    DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.090313

    Peer reviewed, evidence-based syntheses on twenty selected diseases for which there were perceived or real equity gaps in the Canadian immigrant population and for which potential health interventions exist. Clinical guidelines focus on infectious diseases, mental health and maltreatment, chronic and non-communicable diseases, and women’s health.

  • Rechel, Bernd, Philipa Mladovsky, Walter Devillé, Barbara Rijks, Roumyana Petrova-Benedict, and Martin McKee. Migration and health in the European Union. Maidenhead, UK: Open Univ. Press, 2011.

    Explores migration and health in the European Union with a focus on rights to health, barriers to health services access, health issues faced by migrants, and policy implications and recommendations based on examples of best practice.

  • Walker, Patricia, and Elizabeth Barnett, eds. 2007. Immigrant medicine. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

    The first comprehensive book supporting health practitioners caring for immigrant and refugee populations. Contains practical and clinically relevant information and considerations with a strong focus on primary care. Useful advice on screening and vaccination, as well as many maps and tables to help estimate global foci of disease prevalence.

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