WHO showed in a new report that migrants and refugees in Europe “are likely to have good general health,” and there is “very low risk” that they will spread communicable diseases in their host country. However, the population is at a higher risk of becoming ill because of poor living conditions or adjustments to a new lifestyle.
“Today, political and social systems are struggling to rise to the challenge of responding to displacement and migration in a humane and positive way,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, PhD, WHO regional director for Europe, said in a press release. “This report is the first of its kind and gives us a snapshot of the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region, at a time when the migration phenomenon is expanding across the world,”
The report reviewed more than 13,000 documents and summarized the latest available data on the health of refugees and migrants, who make up only 10% of the WHO European Region population. WHO determined that despite widespread assumptions, there is a low risk of refuges and migrants transmitting communicable diseases to the host population. For example, WHO found that the proportion of refugees and migrants among a host country’s tuberculosis cases varies depending on the prevalence of TB in the host population, and that a significant proportion of migrants and refugees who are HIV positive acquired the infection after they arrived in Europe.
Other findings in the report show that refugees and migrants are seemingly less affected by many noncommunicable diseases upon their arrival than the host populations. Additionally, refugees and migrants in conditions of poverty during their stay are at an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer, and are more prone to risk factors for chronic diseases.
“The new report provides insight into what must be done to meet the health needs of both migrants and refugees and the host population,” Jakab said. “As migrants and refugees become more vulnerable than the host population to the risk of developing both noncommunicable and communicable diseases, it is necessary that they receive timely access to quality health services, as everyone else. This is the best way to save lives and cut treatment costs, as well as protect the health of the resident citizens.” – by Caitlyn Stulpin
WHO. Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region: no public health without refugee and migrant health. http://www.euro.who.int/en/publications/abstracts. Accessed January 21, 2019.
Disclosure: Jakab is employed by WHO.