Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have become the first cause of morbidity and mortality around the world. These have been targeted by most governments because they are associated with well-known risk factors and modifiable behaviors. Migrants present, as any population subgroup, peculiarities with regard to NCDs and, more relevantly, need specific information on associated risk factors to appropriately target policies and interventions. The country of origin, assimilation process, and many other migrant health aspects well studied in the literature can be related to migrants’ health risk factors. In most countries, existing sources of information are not sufficient or should be revised, and new sources of data should be found. Existing survey systems can meet organizational difficulties in changing their questionnaires; moreover, the number of changes in the adopted questionnaire should be limited for the sake of brevity to avoid excessive burden on respondents. Nevertheless, a limited number of additional variables can offer a lot of information on migrant health. Migrant status, country of origin, time of arrival should be included in any survey concerned about migrant health. These, along with information on other Social Determinants of Health and access to health services, can offer fundamental information to better understand migrants’ health and its evolution as they live in their host countries. Migrants are often characterized by a better health status, in comparison with the native population, which typically is lost over the years. Public health and health promotion could have a relevant role in modifying, for the better, this evolution, but this action must be supported by timely and reliable information.
Yudit Namer and Oliver Razum
For decades, researchers have been puzzled by the finding that despite low socioeconomic status, fewer social mobility opportunities, and access barriers to health care, some migrant groups appear to experience lower mortality than the majority population of the respective host country (and possibly also of the country of origin). This phenomenon has been acknowledged as a paradox, and in turn, researchers attempted to explain this paradox through theoretical interpretations, innovative research designs, and methodological speculations. Specific focus on the salmon effect/bias and the convergence theory may help characterize the past and current tendencies in migrant health research to explain the paradox of healthy migrants: the first examines whether the paradox reveals a real effect or is a reflection of methodological error, and the second suggests that even if migrants indeed have a mortality advantage, it may soon disappear due to acculturation. These discussions should encompass mental health in addition to physical health. It is impossible to forecast the future trajectories of migration patterns and equally impossible to always accurately predict the physical and mental health outcomes migrants/refugees who cannot return to the country of origin in times of war, political conflict, and severe climate change. However, following individuals on their path to becoming acculturated to new societies will not only enrich our understanding of the relationship between migration and health but also contribute to the acculturation process by generating advocacy for inclusive health care.