We know that migration contributes greatly to the sustainable development goals, yet refugees and migrants continue to face a variety of barriers in accessing healthcare services. Most governments have failed to provide migrants and refugees with the care that they need.
Migrants face a variety of challenges, depending on the migration stage they are in, including a lack of health records or difficult access to existing records; such as patients’ history, diagnoses, and medications. These records are usually dispersed across a number of health information systems throughout different countries. As a result, this can bring forth issues with poor quality of service, duplications, and a lack of continuity. In addition, it can also cause issues in policy building.
Experts believe that health records can help provide the right healthcare to migrants and refugees, while also helping decrease medical costs.
Common Health Needs of Migrants and Refugees
Migrants and refugees typically come from countries facing tough situations such as wars, natural disasters, economic crises, environmental degradation, and internal or external conflict. They often undertake exhausting and dangerous journeys to reach their destination and don’t always have access to drinkable water, food, and other basic needs such as sanitation. This puts them at great risk of diseases and other dilemmas.
Reports suggest that migrants also face mental health issues due to the troubles they face during the journey and the hardships they have to go through once they reach their final destination.
WHO argues that refugees and migrants need immediate attention, yet most countries fail to provide it.
Issues Faced by Migrants and Refugees
Refugees and migrants don’t only have to face xenophobia and discrimination, but also reduced access to healthcare. Migrants are typically excluded from national healthcare programs and do not receive health-related financial protection in health.
As a result, they have to face stigma, high fees, and inadequate interpreting services. Moreover, they don’t always get the right care due to low levels of health literacy.
The situation is even worse for individuals with serious health issues, including disabilities. Women often find it hard to access gender-based and sexual violence protection. Children don’t always get the care or attention they require, and many have to go through tough situations. They are even exploited and abused.
The situation came to a head during the pandemic when many countries decided to first provide vaccines to nationals and residents, ignoring migrants and refugees.
This group of people was hugely affected during the pandemic and had to face issues like shortages of medicines and limited access to healthcare facilities.
How to Solve This Problem
Provide Insurance to Migrants and Refugees
Migrants presently have access to insurance but the process is complicated and expensive. They can choose self-sponsored programs, opt for health insurance agencies, or choose federal and state insurance marketplaces. Still, very few migrants and refugees are covered.
They often come from countries where healthcare insurance is not very commonly used and aren’t aware of the importance of getting insured. They need to be taught and made aware of available insurance plans and their importance.
In addition, there is a dire need to improve the system, remove redundancies and limitations, and ensure everyone has access to insurance.
Migrants and refugees aren’t always aware of the health system in a new country. Also, they have to face the language barrier. For this reason, some end up neglecting their health, and some end up with the wrong medications or diagnoses.
This problem can be solved by educating people and telling them how the healthcare system works. Healthcare advocates can prove to be beneficial and help migrants and refugees deal with the changing policies and dynamic environment. They can even represent migrants and refugees and ensure they get the same care as everyone else.
In some hospitals, nurses play the role of advocates; however, a growing number of organizations are now hiring expert advocates for this position.
Use Public Health Data
Data is everywhere and the healthcare industry is no different. Organizations and providers use patient data to make new policies and decisions related to healthcare. This data, however, does not always take migrants and refugees into consideration, as a result, the healthcare industry fails to cater to them.
There is a need to include this data and opt for data driven decision making. This data can be used to understand the situation of migrants, including where they’re coming from, the health issues they are more likely to face, and the tools needed to solve them.
The Migration Health Division of the International Organization for Migration coordinates or provides pre-departure health assessments of refugees. However, it’s not enough as the organization is not able to cover all migrants and refugees. Moreover, the data that it provides is not always recent as it does not consider the situation refugees go through during the move.
No country can be healthy until it takes care of its population, including migrants and refugees. The healthcare policy needs to take this group into consideration and cater to their problems. The migration problem is, unfortunately, on the rise due to the increasingly complicated geo-political situation in some regions. The time to make reforms is now.