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1.  Midwives’ views on factors that contribute to health care inequalities among immigrants in Sweden: a qualitative study 
Ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in the Swedish health care system have increased. Most indicators suggest that immigrants have significantly poorer health than native Swedes. The purpose of this study was to explore the views of midwives on the factors that contribute to health care inequality among immigrants.
Data were collected via semi-structured interviews with ten midwives. These were transcribed and related categories identified through content analysis.
The interview data were divided into three main categories and seven subcategories. The category “Communication” was divided into subcategories “The meeting”, “Cultural diversity and language barriers” and “Trust and confidence”. The category “Potential barriers to the use of health care services” contained two subcategories, “Seeking health care” and “Receiving equal treatment”. Finally, the category “Transcultural health care” had subcategories “Education on transcultural health care” and “The concept”.
This study suggests that midwives believe that health care inequality among immigrants can be the result of miscommunication which may arise due to a shortage of meeting time, language barriers, different systems of cultural beliefs and practices and limited patient-caregiver trust. Midwives emphasized that education level, country of origin and length of stay in Sweden play a role when an immigrant seeks health care. Immigrants face more difficulties when seeking health care and in receiving adequate levels of care. However, different views among the midwives were also observed. Some midwives were sensitive to individual and intra-group differences, while some others viewed immigrants as a group of “others”. Midwives’ beliefs about subgroup-specific health services vs. integrating immigrants’ health care into mainstream health care services should be investigated further. Patients’ perspective should also be considered.
PMCID: PMC3462105  PMID: 22900923
Immigrants; Midwives; Communication; Inequality; Transcultural health care
2.  An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e448.
Migrant workers in the United States have extremely poor health. This paper aims to identify ways in which the social context of migrant farm workers affects their health and health care.
Methods and Findings
This qualitative study employs participant observation and interviews on farms and in clinics throughout 15 months of migration with a group of indigenous Triqui Mexicans in the western US and Mexico. Study participants include more than 130 farm workers and 30 clinicians. Data are analyzed utilizing grounded theory, accompanied by theories of structural violence, symbolic violence, and the clinical gaze. The study reveals that farm working and housing conditions are organized according to ethnicity and citizenship. This hierarchy determines health disparities, with undocumented indigenous Mexicans having the worst health. Yet, each group is understood to deserve its place in the hierarchy, migrant farm workers often being blamed for their own sicknesses.
Structural racism and anti-immigrant practices determine the poor working conditions, living conditions, and health of migrant workers. Subtle racism serves to reduce awareness of this social context for all involved, including clinicians. The paper concludes with strategies toward improving migrant health in four areas: health disparities research, clinical interactions with migrant laborers, medical education, and policy making.
A qualitative study of migrant Triqui Mexicans in the western US and Mexico shows that structural racism and anti-immigrant practices lead to poor working and living conditions, and poor health.
Editors' Summary
For centuries, recent immigrants have experienced poorer living and working conditions than more established inhabitants, which in turn means that the health of immigrants is often worse. Immigrants often take on the very lowest-paid jobs. One might suppose that in more recent years the increasing prosperity of countries such as the United States and those of western Europe would have reversed this trend. But as recently as 2005 the New York–based Human Rights Watch published a report entitled “Blood, Sweat and Fear,” which documented appalling conditions for the mostly immigrant workers in the US meat and poultry industry. In the UK also, legislation has recently been introduced to try to regulate the activity of “gang masters” who control large groups of immigrant workers. This legislation was triggered by public horror about the deaths in 2004 of 21 immigrant cockle pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay in Lancashire. A group of workers at particular risk of poor conditions because of the seasonal and uncertain patterns of work are those who work as farm laborers.
Why Was This Study Done?
There are relatively few studies that have looked in detail at the pattern of health problems among migrant farm workers in the US. Understanding the working conditions of these workers would be of help in understanding more about their health problems and, in particular, how to prevent them. One problem is that few of these workers are seen in the usual health-care settings; few of them have health insurance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The paper's author spent 15 months with a group of indigenous Triqui Mexicans as they migrated around the western US and Mexico working on farms. He used a type of research called qualitative research, which involved observing and interviewing more than 130 farm workers and 30 health workers on farms and in clinics. He found that working and housing conditions were organized according to ethnicity and citizenship, and that there was an unofficial hierarchy, with undocumented indigenous Mexicans having the worst health. Even worse, migrant farm workers were often blamed for their sicknesses by those in charge of them or those from whom they sought help.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The author concludes that “structural racism and anti-immigrant practices determine the poor working conditions, living conditions, and health of migrant workers.” Furthermore, it seems that “subtle” racism among all involved, including clinicians, reduces awareness and perhaps even allows tacit acceptance of these patterns of health. It seems that targets for specific health interventions for these workers will need to be closely integrated with a broader approach to improving migrant health including medical education and policymaking.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Migration Dialogue regularly consolidates news related to immigration around the world
Global Exchange has information related to fair trade, CAFTA, and other related current events
United Farm Workers has information related to working conditions of migrant laborers
PCUN has information related to migrant laborers in the Pacific Northwest
The Border Action Network has information related to the US-Mexico border
Border Links provides education and experiential learning related to the US-Mexico Border
Tierra Nueva and the Peoples Seminary provide social services for migrant laborers in the Pacific Northwest and education related to the lives of migrant workers
The Pesticide Action Network of North America provides information related to pesticides and health
The Pesticide Education Center provides detailed lists of the contents of pesticides and their health effects
The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies conducts research and education projects related to international migration
Human Rights Watch publishes and campaigns on many issues, including conditions for workers, such as that on the US meat-packing industry
European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations has a range of information concerning migrants
PMCID: PMC1621098  PMID: 17076567
3.  Immigrants’ use of emergency primary health care in Norway: a registry-based observational study 
Emigrants are often a selected sample and in good health, but migration can have deleterious effects on health. Many immigrant groups report poor health and increased use of health services, and it is often claimed that they tend to use emergency primary health care (EPHC) services for non-urgent purposes. The aim of the present study was to analyse immigrants’ use of EPHC, and to analyse variations according to country of origin, reason for immigration, and length of stay in Norway.
We conducted a registry based study of all immigrants to Norway, and a subsample of immigrants from Poland, Germany, Iraq and Somalia, and compared them with native Norwegians. The material comprised all electronic compensation claims for EPHC in Norway during 2008. We calculated total contact rates, contact rates for selected diagnostic groups and for services given during consultations. Adjustments for a series of socio-demographic and socio-economic variables were done by multiple logistic regression analyses.
Immigrants as a whole had a lower contact rate than native Norwegians (23.7% versus 27.4%). Total contact rates for Polish and German immigrants (mostly work immigrants) were 11.9% and 7.0%, but for Somalis and Iraqis (mostly asylum seekers) 31.8% and 33.6%. Half of all contacts for Somalis and Iraqis were for non-specific pain, and they had relatively more of their contacts during night than other groups. Immigrants’ rates of psychiatric diagnoses were low, but increased with length of stay in Norway. Work immigrants suffered less from respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, but had more injuries and higher need for sickness certification. All immigrant groups, except Germans, were more often given a sickness certificate than native Norwegians. Use of interpreter was reduced with increasing length of stay. All immigrant groups had an increased need for long consultations, while laboratory tests were most often used for Somalis and Iraqis.
Immigrants use EPHC services less than native Norwegians, but there are large variations among immigrant groups. Work immigrants from Germany and Poland use EPHC considerably less, while asylum seekers from Somalia and Iraq use these services more than native Norwegians.
PMCID: PMC3471038  PMID: 22958343
Norway; Immigrants; Primary health care; Out of hours medical care; Emergency care
4.  Work and health among immigrants and native Swedes 1990–2008: a register-based study on hospitalization for common potentially work-related disorders, disability pension and mortality 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:845.
There are many immigrants in the Swedish workforce, but knowledge of their general and work-related health is limited. The aim of this register-based study was to explore whether documented migrant residents in Sweden have a different health status regarding receipt of a disability pension, mortality and hospitalization for lung, heart, psychiatric, and musculoskeletal disorders compared with the native population, and if there were variations in relation to sex, geographical origin, position on the labor market, and time since first immigration.
This study included migrants to Sweden since 1960 who were 28–47 years old in 1990, and included 243 860 individuals. The comparison group comprised a random sample of 859 653 native Swedes. These cohorts were followed from 1991 to 2008 in national registers. The immigrants were divided into four groups based on geographic origin. Hazard ratios for men and women from different geographic origins and with different employment status were analyzed separately for the six outcomes, with adjustment for age, education level, and income. The influence of length of residence in Sweden was analyzed separately.
Nordic immigrants had increased risks for all investigated outcomes while most other groups had equal or lower risks for those outcomes than the Swedes. The lowest HRs were found in the EU 15+ group (from western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand). All groups, except Nordic immigrants, had lower risk of mortality, but all had higher risk of disability pension receipt compared with native Swedes. Unemployed non-Nordic men displayed equal or lower HRs for most outcomes, except disability pension receipt, compared with unemployed Swedish men. A longer time since first immigration improved the health status of men, while women showed opposite results.
Employment status and length of residence are important factors for health. The contradictory results of low mortality and high disability pension risks need more attention. There is great potential to increase the knowledge in this field in Sweden, because of the high quality registers.
PMCID: PMC3532317  PMID: 23039821
Immigrant; Migration; Health; Hospitalization; Disability pension; Mortality; Labor market; Employment; Unemployment; Sweden
5.  Are there differences in all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality between immigrants in Sweden and in their country of birth? A follow-up study of total populations 
BMC Public Health  2006;6:102.
Mortality from cardiovascular diseases is higher among immigrants than native Swedes. It is not clear whether the high mortality persists from the country of birth or is a result of migration. The purpose of the present study was to analyse whether all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality differ between immigrants in Sweden and in the country of birth.
Two cohorts including the total population from Swedish national registers and WHO were defined. All-cause and CHD mortality are presented as age-adjusted incidence rates and incidence density ratios (IDR) in eight immigrant groups in Sweden and in their country of birth. The data were analysed using Poisson regression.
The all-cause mortality risk was lower among seven of eight male immigrant groups (IDR 0.39–0.97) and among six of eight female immigrant groups (IDR 0.42–0.81) than in their country of birth. The CHD mortality risk was significantly lower in male immigrants from Norway (IDR = 0.84), Finland (IDR = 0.91), Germany (IDR = 0.84) and Hungary (IDR = 0.59) and among female immigrants from Germany (IDR = 0.66) and Hungary (IDR = 0.54) than in their country of birth. In contrast, there was a significantly higher CHD mortality risk in male immigrants from Southern Europe (IDR = 1.23) than in their country of birth.
The all-cause mortality risk was lower in the majority of immigrant groups in Sweden than in their country of birth. The differences in CHD mortality risks were more complex. For countries with high CHD mortality, such as Finland and Hungary, the risk was lower among immigrants in Sweden than in their country of birth. For low-risk countries in South Europe, the risk was higher in immigrants in Sweden than in South Europe.
PMCID: PMC1475577  PMID: 16630338
6.  Breast cancer incidence and case fatality among 4.7 million women in relation to social and ethnic background: a population-based cohort study 
Incidence of breast cancer is increasing around the world and it is still the leading cause of cancer mortality in low- and middle-income countries. We utilized Swedish nationwide registers to study breast cancer incidence and case fatality to disentangle the effect of socioeconomic position (SEP) and immigration from the trends in native Swedes.
A nation-wide cohort of women in Sweden was followed between 1961 and 2007 and incidence rate ratio (IRR) and hazard ratio (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Poisson and Cox proportional regression models, respectively.
Incidence continued to increase; however, it remained lower among immigrants (IRR = 0.88, 95% CI = 0.86 to 0.90) but not among immigrants' daughters (IRR = 0.97, 95% CI = 0.94 to 1.01) compared to native Swedes. Case fatality decreased over the last decades and was similar in native Swedes and immigrants. However, case fatality was significantly 14% higher if cancer was diagnosed after age 50 and 20% higher if cancer was diagnosed in the most recent years among immigrants compared with native Swedes. Women with the highest SEP had significantly 20% to 30% higher incidence but had 30% to 40% lower case fatality compared with women with the lowest SEP irrespective of country of birth. Age at immigration and duration of residence significantly modified the incidence and case fatality.
Disparities found in case fatality among immigrants by age, duration of residence, age at immigration and country of birth emphasize the importance of targeting interventions on women that are not likely to attend screenings or are not likely to adhere to the therapy suggested by physicians. The lower risk of breast cancer among immigrant women calls for more knowledge about how the lifestyle factors in these women differ from those with high risk, so that preventative measures may be implemented.
PMCID: PMC3496120  PMID: 22225950
7.  Migration and health in Canada: health in the global village 
Immigration has been and remains an important force shaping Canadian demography and identity. Health characteristics associated with the movement of large numbers of people have current and future implications for migrants, health practitioners and health systems. We aimed to identify demographics and health status data for migrant populations in Canada.
We systematically searched Ovid MEDLINE (1996–2009) and other relevant web-based databases to examine immigrant selection processes, demographic statistics, health status from population studies and health service implications associated with migration to Canada. Studies and data were selected based on relevance, use of recent data and quality.
Currently, immigration represents two-thirds of Canada’s population growth, and immigrants make up more than 20% of the nation’s population. Both of these metrics are expected to increase. In general, newly arriving immigrants are healthier than the Canadian population, but over time there is a decline in this healthy immigrant effect. Immigrants and children born to new immigrants represent growing cohorts; in some metropolitan regions of Canada, they represent the majority of the patient population. Access to health services and health conditions of some migrant populations differ from patterns among Canadian-born patients, and these disparities have implications for preventive care and provision of health services.
Because the health characteristics of some migrant populations vary according to their origin and experience, improved understanding of the scope and nature of the immigration process will help practitioners who will be increasingly involved in the care of immigrant populations, including prevention, early detection of disease and treatment.
PMCID: PMC3168671  PMID: 20584934
8.  Clinical practice patterns among native and immigrant doctors doing out-of-hours work in Norway: a registry-based observational study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001153.
To evaluate whether immigrant and native Norwegian doctors differ in their practice patterns.
Observational study.
Out-of-hours (OOH) emergency primary healthcare in Norway, 2008.
All primary care physicians doing OOH work, altogether 4165 physicians.
Main outcome measures
Number of patient contacts per doctor. Use of laboratory tests, minor surgery, sickness certification and length of consultations. Use of diagnoses related to psychiatric and sexual health. Choice of management strategy with psychiatric patients (psychotherapy or hospitalisation).
21.4% of the physicians were immigrants, and they had 30.6% of the patient contacts. Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America had most patient contacts, 633 (95% CI 549 to 716), while native Norwegian doctors had 306 (95% CI 288 to 325). In multivariate analyses, immigrant physicians did not differ significantly from native Norwegians regarding use of laboratory tests, minor surgery or length of consultations, but immigrant doctors wrote more sickness certificates, OR 1.75 (95% CI 1.24 to 2.47) for immigrant doctors from Europe, North America and Oceania versus native Norwegian doctors and OR 1.56 (95% CI 1.15 to 2.11) for immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America versus native Norwegians. Immigrant physicians from Europe, North America and Oceania used more diagnoses related to pregnancy, family planning and female genitals, OR 1.55 (95% CI 1.11 to 2.16), versus native Norwegian physicians. Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America used less psychiatric diagnoses, OR 0.71 (95% CI 0.53 to 0.95), versus native Norwegian doctors but did not differ significantly in their management of recognised psychiatric illness.
Immigrant doctors make an important contribution to OOH emergency primary healthcare in Norway. The authors found only modest evidence that their clinical practice patterns are different from that of native Norwegian doctors.
Article summary
Article focus
Western countries receive an increasing number of immigrant doctors.
Concern has been raised regarding their skills.
We studied immigrant doctors' clinical performance.
Key messages
Immigrant doctors from Asia, Africa and Latin America did more OOH work than native Norwegian doctors.
Immigrant doctors wrote more sickness certificates per consultation.
Otherwise, there were only minor differences in practice patterns between immigrant and native Norwegian doctors.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Large and complete material.
Avoids problem with case mix.
Limited information about immigrant doctors' educational background.
PMCID: PMC3400071  PMID: 22798255
9.  Heading South: Why Mexican Immigrants in California Seek Health Services in Mexico 
Medical care  2009;47(6):662-669.
Identify factors that explain why some Mexican immigrants in California use health services in Mexico.
California Health Interview Survey 2001 data were analyzed for medical care, dental care, and/or prescription drug purchases in Mexico in the previous year. Logistic regressions estimated the effect on use of need, availability, accessibility, and acceptability among immigrants from Mexico.
An estimated 952,000 California adults used medical, dental, or prescription services in Mexico during the past year, 488,000 of whom were Mexican immigrants. Long-stay Mexican immigrants had the highest rate (15%), followed by short-stay Mexican immigrants (11.5%), U.S.-born Mexican Americans (5.4%) and U.S.-born non-Latino whites (2.1%). Predictors of use by immigrants included need, no insurance, delay seeking care, more recent immigration, limited English, and nonphysician provider use. Living closer to the border increased use, although half of immigrants seeking services lived more than 120 miles from the border. Mexican immigrants with long stays in the U.S. have a somewhat different pattern of predictors from those with short stays.
Mexican immigrants are the most likely to seek medical, dental, and prescription services in Mexico. A large number, but small percentage, of U.S.-born non-Latino whites purchase prescription drugs there. While proximity facilitates use, access and acceptability barriers in the U.S. medical care system encourage immigrants to seek care in Mexico who would be helped by expanded binational health insurance.
PMCID: PMC2711545  PMID: 19434002
Cross-border Health Care; Access to care; Mexican-origin population; Prescription Drugs; Dental care; Language Access; Uninsured; Immigrants
10.  Immigrant enclaves and risk of diabetes: a prospective study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1093.
The diversity of the Swedish population has increased substantially over the past three decades. The aim of this study was to assess whether living in an ethnic enclave is associated with risk of diabetes mellitus (DM) among first and second-generation immigrants and native Swedes.
Cumulative incidence of DM in three urban municipalities was assessed from 2006–2010 by linking records from the national census, multi-generational family register, and prescription drug register. Immigrant enclaves were identified using Moran’s Index. Multi-level logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between enclave residence and risk of DM for three groups: Iraqi immigrants, non-Iraqi immigrants, and native Swedes (N = 887,603).
The cumulative incidence of DM was greater in Iraqi enclaves compared to other neighborhoods (4.7% vs. 2.3%). Among Iraqi immigrants, enclave residence was not associated with odds of DM (Odds ratio (OR): 1.03, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.86 – 1.24). Among other immigrants, enclave residence was not associated with DM after accounting for neighborhood deprivation. Among native Swedes, enclave residence was associated with elevated risk of DM even after accounting for neighborhood deprivation and individual-level characteristics (OR: 1.23, 95% CI: 1.11 – 1.36).
Residential ethnic composition is associated with DM but this relationship differs across ethnic group. Enclave residence is not associated with increased odds of DM for immigrants, regardless of their nation of origin, but it is associated with increased likelihood of DM for native Swedes.
PMCID: PMC4221671  PMID: 25335856
11.  Physical inactivity is strongly associated with anxiety and depression in Iraqi immigrants to Sweden: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:502.
Increasing evidence on associations between mental health and chronic diseases like cardio-vascular disease and diabetes together with the fact that little is known about the prevalence of anxiety/depression and associated risk factors among Iraqi immigrants to Sweden, warrants a study in this group. The aim was to study the prevalence of anxiety and depression in immigrants from Iraq compared to native Swedes and compare socioeconomic and lifestyle-related factors associated with these conditions.
A population-based, cross-sectional study of residents of Malmö, Sweden, aged 30–75 years, born in Iraq or Sweden. The overall response rate was 49% for Iraqis and 32% for Swedes. Anxiety and depression were assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Associations were studied using multivariate logistic regression models. The outcome was odds of depression and/or anxiety.
Compared to Swedes (n = 634), anxiety was three times as prevalent (52.6 vs. 16.3%, p < 0.001) and depression five times as prevalent (16.3 vs. 3.1%, p < 0.001) in Iraqi immigrants (n = 1255). Iraqis were three times more likely to be anxious and/or depressed compared to Swedes (odds ratio (OR) 3.02, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.06-4.41). Among Iraqis, physical inactivity (<150 min/week) (OR 2.00, 95% CI 1.49-2.69), economic insecurity (OR 2.16, 95% CI 1.56-3.01), inability to trust people (OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.28-2.39) and smoking (OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.02-2.01), were strongly associated with anxiety/depression. Among Swedes, living alone (OR 2.10, 95% CI 1.36-3.25) and economic insecurity (OR 2.38, 95% CI 1.38-4.12) showed the strongest associations with anxiety/depression. Country of birth modified the effect of physical inactivity (P interaction =0.058) as well as of marital status (P interaction =0.001).
Our study indicates that economic insecurity has a major impact on poor mental health irrespective of ethnic background but that physical inactivity may be more strongly associated with anxiety/depression in immigrants from the Middle East compared to native Swedes. Preventive actions emphasizing increased physical activity may reduce the risk of poor mental health in immigrants from the Middle East, however intervention studies are warranted to test this hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC4049384  PMID: 24884440
Anxiety; Depression; Physical activity; Immigrants; Middle East; Sweden
12.  Unemployment at a young age and later sickness absence, disability pension and death in native Swedes and immigrants 
Background: Youth unemployment is an increasing problem for societies around the world. Research has revealed negative health effects of unemployment, and this longitudinal register-based cohort study examined the relationship between unemployment and later sickness absence, disability pension and death among youth in Sweden. Method: The study group of 199 623 individuals comprised all immigrants born between 1968 and 1972 who immigrated before 1990 (25 607) and a random sample of native Swedes in the same age-range (174 016). The baseline year was 1992, and the follow-up period was from 1993 to 2007. Subjects with unemployment benefit in 1990–91, disability pension in 1990–92, severe disorders leading to hospitalization in 1990–92 and subjects who emigrated during follow-up were excluded. Results: Those who were unemployed in 1992 had elevated risk of ≥60 days of sickness absence (OR 1.02–1.49), disability pension (HR 1.08–1.62) and all except native Swedish women had elevated risk of death (HR 1.01–1.65) during follow-up compared with non-unemployed individuals. The risk of future sickness absence increased with the length of unemployment in 1992 (OR 1.06–1.54), and the risk of sickness absence increased over time. A larger part of the immigrant cohort was unemployed at baseline than native Swedes. Selection to unemployment by less healthy subjects may explain part of the association between unemployment and the studied outcomes. Conclusion: Unemployment at an early age may influence the future health of the individual. To a society it may lead to increased burdens on the welfare system and productivity loss for many years.
PMCID: PMC3719474  PMID: 22930745
13.  Immigrants’ use of primary health care services for mental health problems 
Equity in health care across all social groups is a major goal in health care policy. Immigrants may experience more mental health problems than natives, but we do not know the extent to which they seek help from primary health care services. This study aimed to determine a) the rate immigrants use primary health care services for mental health problems compared with Norwegians and b) the association between length of stay, reason for immigration and service use among immigrants.
National register data covering all residents in Norway and all consultations with primary health care services were used. We conducted logistic regression analyses to compare Norwegians’ with Polish, Swedish, German, Pakistani and Iraqi immigrants’ odds of having had a consultation for a mental health problem (P-consultation).
After accounting for background variables, all immigrants groups, except Iraqi men had lower odds of a P-consultation than their Norwegian counterparts. A shorter length of stay was associated with lower odds of a P-consultation.
Service use varies by country of origin and patterns are different for men and women. There was some evidence of a possible ‘healthy migrant worker’ effect among the European groups. Together with previous research, our findings however, suggest that Iraqi women and Pakistanis in particular, may experience barriers in accessing care for mental health problems.
PMCID: PMC4137098  PMID: 25127890
Immigrant health; Primary health care; Mental health; Health inequalities
14.  Cardiovascular disease in relation to diabetes status in immigrants from the Middle East compared to native Swedes: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1133.
Type 2 diabetes is highly prevalent in immigrants to Sweden from Iraq, but the prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and its risk factors are not known. In this survey we aimed to compare the prevalence of CVD and CVD-associated risk factors between a population born in Iraq and individuals born in Sweden.
This population-based, cross-sectional study comprised 1,365 Iraqi immigrants and 739 Swedes (age 30-75 years) residing in the same socioeconomic area in Malmö, Sweden. Blood tests were performed and socio-demography and lifestyles were characterized. To investigate potential differences in CVD, odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated by multivariate logistic regression analysis with adjustment for metabolic, lifestyle and psychosocial risk factors for CVD. Outcome measures were odds of CVD.
There were no differences in self-reported prevalence of CVD between Iraqi- and Swedish-born individuals (4.0 vs. 5.5%, OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.4-1.8). However, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes was higher in Iraqi compared to Swedish participants (8.4 vs. 3.3%, OR = 4.2, 95% CI 2.6-6.7). Moreover, among individuals with type 2 diabetes, Iraqis had a higher prevalence of CVD (22.8 vs. 8.0%, OR = 4.2, 95% CI 0.9-20.0), after adjustment for age and sex. By contrast, among those without diabetes, immigrants from Iraq had a lower prevalence of CVD than Swedes (2.2 vs. 5.5%, OR = 0.6, 95% CI 0.3-0.9).
Type 2 diabetes was an independent risk factor for CVD in Iraqis only (OR = 6.8, 95% CI 2.8-16.2). This was confirmed by an interaction between country of birth and diabetes (p = 0.010). In addition, in Iraqis, type 2 diabetes contributed to CVD risk to a higher extent than history of hypertension (standardized OR 1.5 vs. 1.4).
This survey indicates that the odds of CVD in immigrants from Iraq are highly dependent on the presence or absence of type 2 diabetes and that type 2 diabetes contributes with higher odds of CVD in Iraqi immigrants compared to native Swedes. Our study suggests that CVD prevention in immigrants from the Middle East would benefit from prevention of type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3878995  PMID: 24308487
Type 2 diabetes; Cardiovascular disease; Migration; Middle East
15.  Immigrant status and increased risk of heart failure: the role of hypertension and life-style risk factors 
Studies from Sweden have reported association between immigrant status and incidence of cardiovascular diseases. The nature of this relationship is unclear. We investigated the relationship between immigrant status and risk of heart failure (HF) hospitalization in a population-based cohort, and to what extent this is mediated by hypertension and life-style risk factors. We also explored whether immigrant status was related to case-fatality after HF.
26,559 subjects without history of myocardial infarction (MI), stroke or HF from the community-based Malmö Diet and Cancer (MDC) cohort underwent a baseline examination during 1991-1996. Incidence of HF hospitalizations was monitored during a mean follow-up of 15 years.
3,129 (11.8%) subjects were born outside Sweden. During follow-up, 764 subjects were hospitalized with HF as primary diagnosis, of whom 166 had an MI before or concurrent with the HF. After adjustment for potential confounding factors, the hazard ratios (HR) for foreign-born were 1.37 (95% CI: 1.08-1.73, p = 0.009) compared to native Swedes, for HF without previous MI. The results were similar in a secondary analysis without censoring at incident MI. There was a significant interaction (p < 0.001) between immigrant status and waist circumference (WC), and the increased HF risk was limited to immigrants with high WC. Although not significant foreign-born tended to have lower one-month and one-year mortality after HF.
Immigrant status was associated with long-term risk of HF hospitalization, independently of hypertension and several life-style risk factors. A significant interaction between WC and immigrant status on incident HF was observed.
PMCID: PMC3325899  PMID: 22443268
Immigrant status; heart failure; risk factors; cohort study; case-fatality; epidemiology
16.  Ethnic differences in Internal Medicine referrals and diagnosis in the Netherlands 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:287.
As in other Western countries, the number of immigrants in the Netherlands is growing rapidly. In 1980 non-western immigrants constituted about 3% of the population, in 1990 it was 6% and currently it is more than 10%. Nearly half of the migrant population lives in the four major cities. In the municipality of Rotterdam 34% of the inhabitants are migrants. Health policy is based on the ideal that all inhabitants should have equal access to health care and this requires an efficient planning of health care resources, like staff and required time per patient. The aim of this study is to examine ethnic differences in the use of internal medicine outpatient care, specifically to examine ethnic differences in the reason for referral and diagnosis.
We conducted a study with an open cohort design. We registered the ethnicity, sex, age, referral reasons, diagnosis and living area of all new patients that visited the internal medicine outpatient clinic of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam (Erasmus MC) for one year (March 2002–2003). Additionally, we coded referrals according to the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC) and categorised diagnosis according to the Diagnosis Treatment Combination (DTC). We analysed data by using Poisson regression and logistic regression.
All ethnic minority groups (Surinam, Turkish, Moroccan, Antillean/Aruban and Cape Verdean immigrants) living in Rotterdam municipality, make significantly more use of the outpatient clinic than native Dutch people (relative risk versus native Dutch people was 1.83, 1.97, 1.79, 1.65 and 1.88, respectively).
Immigrant patients are more likely to be referred for analysis and treatment of 'gastro-intestinal signs & symptoms' and were less often referred for 'indefinite, general signs'. Ethnic minorities were more frequently diagnosed with 'Liver diseases', and less often with 'Analysis without diagnosis'. The increased use of the outpatient facilities seems to be restricted to first-generation immigrants, and is mainly based on a higher risk of being referred with 'gastro-intestinal signs & symptoms'.
These findings demonstrate substantial ethnic differences in the use of the outpatient care facilities. Ethnic differences may decrease in the future when the proportion of first-generation immigrants decreases. The increased use of outpatient health care seems to be related to ethnic background and the generation of the immigrants rather than to socio-economic status. Further study is needed to establish this.
PMCID: PMC2538538  PMID: 18702812
17.  Does fear of immigration authorities deter tuberculosis patients from seeking care? 
Western Journal of Medicine  1994;161(4):373-376.
Physician groups are concerned that legislation requiring physicians to report illegal immigrants to immigration authorities will delay curative care. In particular, patients with tuberculosis may delay seeking care for infectious symptoms and spread the disease. We surveyed 313 consecutive patients with active tuberculosis from 95 different facilities to examine the relationship of immigration-related variables, symptoms, and delay in seeking care. Most patients (71%) sought care for symptoms rather than as a result of the efforts of public health personnel to screen high-risk groups or to trace contacts of infectious persons. At least 20% of respondents lacked legal documents allowing them to reside in the United States. Few (6%) feared that going to a physician might lead to trouble with immigration authorities. Those who did were almost 4 times as likely to delay seeking care for more than 2 months, a period of time likely to result in disease transmission. Patients potentially exposed an average of 10 domestic and workplace contacts during the course of the delay. Any legislation that increases undocumented immigrants' fear that health care professionals will report them to immigration authorities may exacerbate the current tuberculosis epidemic.
PMCID: PMC1022616  PMID: 7817547
18.  The trends and the risk of type 1 diabetes over the past 40 years: an analysis by birth cohorts and by parental migration background in Sweden 
BMJ Open  2013;3(10):e003418.
To investigate the trends and the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in the offspring of Swedes and immigrants by specific parental migration background, age, sex and birth cohort.
Registry-based cohort study.
Using Swedish nationwide data we analysed the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in 3 457 486 female and 3 641 304 male offspring between 0 and 30 years of age, born to native Swedes or immigrants and born and living in Sweden between 1969 and 2009. We estimated incidence rate ratios (IRRs) with 95% CIs using Poisson regression models. We further calculated age-standardised rates (ASRs) of type 1 diabetes, using the world population as standard.
We observed a trend of increasing ASRs among offspring below 15 years of age born to native Swedes and a less evident increase among offspring of immigrants. We further observed a shift towards a younger age at diagnosis in younger birth cohorts in both groups of offspring.Compared with offspring of Swedes, children (0–14 years) and young adults (15–30 years) with one parent born abroad had an overall 30% and 15–20% lower IRR, respectively, after multivariable adjustment. The reduction in IRR was even greater among offspring of immigrants if both parents were born abroad. Analysis by specific parental region of birth revealed a 45–60% higher IRR among male and female offspring aged 0–30 years of Eastern Africa.
Parental country of birth and early exposures to environmental factors play an important role in the aetiology of type 1 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3816233  PMID: 24176793
Type 1 Diabetes; Birth Cohort; Incidence; Migration; Sweden
19.  Zinc Transporter 8 Autoantibodies and Their Association With SLC30A8 and HLA-DQ Genes Differ Between Immigrant and Swedish Patients With Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes in the Better Diabetes Diagnosis Study 
Diabetes  2012;61(10):2556-2564.
We examined whether zinc transporter 8 autoantibodies (ZnT8A; arginine ZnT8-RA, tryptophan ZnT8-WA, and glutamine ZnT8-QA variants) differed between immigrant and Swedish patients due to different polymorphisms of SLC30A8, HLA-DQ, or both. Newly diagnosed autoimmune (≥1 islet autoantibody) type 1 diabetic patients (n = 2,964, <18 years, 55% male) were ascertained in the Better Diabetes Diagnosis study. Two subgroups were identified: Swedes (n = 2,160, 73%) and immigrants (non-Swedes; n = 212, 7%). Non-Swedes had less frequent ZnT8-WA (38%) than Swedes (50%), consistent with a lower frequency in the non-Swedes (37%) of SLC30A8 CT+TT (RW+WW) genotypes than in the Swedes (54%). ZnT8-RA (57 and 58%, respectively) did not differ despite a higher frequency of CC (RR) genotypes in non-Swedes (63%) than Swedes (46%). We tested whether this inconsistency was due to HLA-DQ as 2/X (2/2; 2/y; y is anything but 2 or 8), which was a major genotype in non-Swedes (40%) compared with Swedes (14%). In the non-Swedes only, 2/X (2/2; 2/y) was negatively associated with ZnT8-WA and ZnT8-QA but not ZnT8-RA. Molecular simulation showed nonbinding of the relevant ZnT8-R peptide to DQ2, explaining in part a possible lack of tolerance to ZnT8-R. At diagnosis in non-Swedes, the presence of ZnT8-RA rather than ZnT8-WA was likely due to effects of HLA-DQ2 and the SLC30A8 CC (RR) genotypes.
PMCID: PMC3447907  PMID: 22787139
20.  Immigrants and the utilization of hospital emergency departments 
Immigrants with language barriers are at high risk of having poor access to health care services. However, several studies have indicated that immigrants tend to use emergency departments (EDs) as their primary source of care at the expense of primary care. This may place an additional burden on already overcrowded EDs and lead to a low level of patient satisfaction with ED care. The study was to review if immigrants utilize ED care differently from host populations and to assess immigrants’ satisfaction with ED care.
Studies about immigrants’ utilization of EDs in Australia and worldwide were reviewed.
There are conflicting results in the literature about the pattern of ED care use among immigrants. Some studies have shown higher utilization by immigrants compared to host populations and others have shown lower utilization. Overall, immigrants use ED care heavily, make inappropriate visits to EDs, have a longer length of stay in EDs, and are less satisfied with ED care as compared to host populations.
Immigrants might use ED care differently from host populations due to language and cultural barriers. There is sparse Australian literature regarding immigrants’ access to health care including ED care. To ensure equity, further research is needed to inform policy when planning health care provision to immigrants.
PMCID: PMC4129805  PMID: 25215071
Emergency department; Health service; Immigrants; Language; Utilization
21.  Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration, Immigration Status, and Disparities in a Community Health Center-Based Sample of Men 
Public Health Reports  2010;125(1):79-87.
We examined disparities in male perpetration of intimate partner violence (IPV) based on immigration status.
From 2005 to 2006, 1,668 men aged 18–35 who were recruited from community health centers anonymously completed an automated, computer-assisted self-interview. Men self-reported their immigrant status (e.g., native-born, <6 years in the U.S. [recent immigrants], or ≥6 years in the U.S. [non-recent immigrants]) and IPV perpetration. We calculated differences in IPV perpetration based on immigrant status. Among immigrant men, we further examined differences in IPV perpetration based on English-speaking ability.
Recent immigrants were less likely to report IPV perpetration than native-born men in the overall sample (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.60, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.36, 1.00). However, we observed no differences in IPV perpetration between non-recent immigrants and native-born men (AOR=0.88, 95% CI 0.63, 1.23). Among immigrant men, those who were non-recent immigrants and reported limited English-speaking ability were at the highest risk for IPV perpetration, compared with recent immigrants with high English-speaking ability (AOR=7.48, 95% CI 1.92, 29.08).
Although immigrant men were at a lower risk as a group for IPV perpetration as compared with non-immigrants, this lower likelihood of IPV perpetration was only evident among recent immigrants. Among immigrant men, those who arrived in the U.S. more than six years ago and reported speaking English relatively poorly appeared to be at greatest risk for using violence against partners. Future research should examine the effects of fear of legal sanctions, discrimination, and changes in gender roles to clarify the present findings.
PMCID: PMC2789819  PMID: 20402199
22.  A study of Iranian immigrants’ experiences of accessing Canadian health care services: a grounded theory 
Immigration is not a new phenomenon but, rather, has deep roots in human history. Documents from every era detail individuals who left their homelands and struggled to reestablish their lives in other countries. The aim of this study was to explore and understand the experience of Iranian immigrants who accessed Canadian health care services. Research with immigrants is useful for learning about strategies that newcomers develop to access health care services.
The research question guiding this study was, “What are the processes by which Iranian immigrants learn to access health care services in Canada?” To answer the question, a constructivist grounded theory approach was applied. Initially, unstructured interviews were conducted with 17 participants (11 women and six men) who were adults (at least 18 years old) and had immigrated to Canada within the past 15 years. Eight participants took part in a second interview, and four participants took part in a third interview.
Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, “tackling the stumbling blocks of access” emerged as the core category. The basic social process (BSP), becoming self-sufficient, was a transitional process and had five stages: becoming a stranger; feeling helpless; navigating/seeking information; employing strategies; and becoming integrated and self-sufficient. We found that “tackling the stumbling blocks of access” was the main struggle throughout this journey. Some of the immigrants were able to overcome these challenges and became proficient in accessing health care services, but others were unable to make the necessary changes and thus stayed in earlier stages/phases of transition, and sometimes returned to their country of origin.
During the course of this journey a substantive grounded theory was developed that revealed the challenges and issues confronted by this particular group of immigrants. This process explains why some Iranian immigrants are able to access Canadian health care effectively while others cannot. Many elements, including language proficiency, cultural differences, education, previous experiences, financial status, age, knowledge of the host country’s health care services, and insider and outsider resources work synergistically in helping immigrants to access health care services effectively and appropriately.
PMCID: PMC3519565  PMID: 23021015
Immigrants; Refugees; Health care; Access; Iranians; Canada; Constructivist grounded theory
23.  Differential utilization of primary health care services among older immigrants and Norwegians: a register-based comparative study in Norway 
Aging in an unfamiliar landscape can pose health challenges for the growing numbers of immigrants and their health care providers. Therefore, better understanding of how different immigrant groups use Primary Health Care (PHC), and the underlying factors that explain utilization is needed to provide adequate and appropriate public health responses. Our aim is to describe and compare the use of PHC between elderly immigrants and Norwegians.
Registry-based study using merged data from the National Population Register and the Norwegian Health Economics Administration database. All 50 year old or older Norwegians with both parents from Norway (1,516,012) and immigrants with both parents from abroad (89,861) registered in Norway in 2008 were included. Descriptive analyses were carried out. Immigrants were categorised according to country of origin, reason for migration and length of stay in Norway. Binary logistic regression analyses were conducted to study the utilization of PHC comparing Norwegians and immigrants, and to assess associations between utilization and both length of stay and reason for immigration, adjusting for other socioeconomic variables.
A higher proportion of Norwegians used PHC services compared to immigrants. While immigrants from high-income countries used PHC less than Norwegians disregarding age (OR from 0.65 to 0.92 depending on age group), they had similar number of diagnoses when in contact with PHC. Among immigrants from other countries, however, those 50 to 65 years old used PHC services more often (OR 1.22) than Norwegians and had higher comorbidity levels, but this pattern was reversed for older adults (OR 0.56 to 0.47 for 66-80 and 80+ years respectively). For all immigrants, utilization of PHC increased with longer stay in Norway and was higher for refugees (1.67 to 1.90) but lower for labour immigrants (0.33 to 0.45) compared to immigrants for family reunification. However, adjustment for education and income levels reduced most differences between groups.
Immigrants’ lower utilization of PHC services might reflect better health among immigrants, but it could also be due to barriers to access that pose public health challenges. The heterogeneity of life courses and migration trajectories should be taken into account when developing public policies.
PMCID: PMC4245733  PMID: 25424647
Immigrant; Primary care; Primary health care use; Health services; Norway
24.  Health, Chronic Conditions, and Behavioral Risk Disparities Among U.S. Immigrant Children and Adolescents 
Public Health Reports  2013;128(6):463-479.
We examined differentials in the prevalence of 23 parent-reported health, chronic condition, and behavioral indicators among 91,532 children of immigrant and U.S.-born parents.
We used the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health to estimate health differentials among 10 ethnic-nativity groups. Logistic regression yielded adjusted differentials.
Immigrant children in each racial/ethnic group had a lower prevalence of depression and behavioral problems than native-born children. The prevalence of autism varied from 0.3% among immigrant Asian children to 1.3%–1.4% among native-born non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children. Immigrant children had a lower prevalence of asthma, attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; developmental delay; learning disability; speech, hearing, and sleep problems; school absence; and ≥1 chronic condition than native-born children, with health risks increasing markedly in relation to mother's duration of residence in the U.S. Immigrant children had a substantially lower exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, with the odds of exposure being 60%–95% lower among immigrant non-Hispanic black, Asian, and Hispanic children compared with native non-Hispanic white children. Obesity prevalence ranged from 7.7% for native-born Asian children to 24.9%–25.1% for immigrant Hispanic and native-born non-Hispanic black children. Immigrant children had higher physical inactivity levels than native-born children; however, inactivity rates declined with each successive generation of immigrants. Immigrant Hispanic children were at increased risk of obesity and sedentary behaviors. Ethnic-nativity differentials in health and behavioral indicators remained marked after covariate adjustment.
Immigrant patterns in child health and health-risk behaviors vary substantially by ethnicity, generational status, and length of time since immigration. Public health programs must target at-risk children of both immigrant and U.S.-born parents.
PMCID: PMC3804090  PMID: 24179258
25.  Effect of Parental Migration Background on Childhood Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Body Mass Index 
Journal of Obesity  2014;2014:406529.
Background. Poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and obesity in children have important public health implications but, to date, their effects have not been studied in the growing population of children in Sweden with immigrant parents. Methods. We estimated the association between parental migration background and nutrition, physical activity, and weight in 8-year-old children born in Stockholm between 1994 and 1996 of immigrants and Swedish parents (n = 2589). Data were collected through clinical examination and questionnaires filled out by parents. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated using multivariable logistic regression. Results. Children of immigrants complied more closely with Nordic Nutrition Recommendations compared with those of Swedes (OR = 1.35, 95% CI 1.11–1.64). They had higher intake of dietary fibre, vitamins C, B6, and E, folic acid, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) reflecting higher consumption of foods of plant origin, but lower intake of vitamins A and D, calcium, and iron reflecting lower consumption of dairy products. Children of immigrants had higher intake of sucrose reflecting higher consumption of sugar and sweets. Furthermore, these children had a higher risk of having low physical activity (OR = 1.31, 95% CI 1.06–1.62) and being overweight (OR = 1.33, 95% CI 1.06–1.65) compared with children of Swedish parents. The odds of having low physical activity and being overweight were even higher in children whose parents were both immigrants. A low level of parental education was associated with increased risk of low physical activity regardless of immigration background. Conclusions. Culturally appropriate tools to capture the diverse range of ethnic foods and other lifestyle habits are needed. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the low levels of physical activity, increased weight, and lack of consumption of some important vitamins among children of immigrants.
PMCID: PMC4058807  PMID: 24991430

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