Migration is a reality of today’s world, with over one billion migrants worldwide. While many choose to move voluntarily, others are forced to migrate due to economic reasons or to flee war, conflict, or persecution. Such migrants often find themselves in precarious and marginalized situations—particularly asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented or irregular migrants. While often viewed as a single group, the legal status and entitlements of these three groups are different. This has implications for their ability to access health care; in addition, rights and entitlements vary across the 28 countries of the European Union and across different parts of national health systems. The lack of entitlement to receive care, including primary and secondary care, is a significant barrier for many asylum seekers and refugees and an even greater barrier for undocumented migrants. Other barriers include different health profiles and awareness of chronic disease risk amongst migrants; awareness of the organization of health systems in host countries; and language and communication. The use of professional interpreters can help to overcome communication barriers, but entitlement to free interpreting services is highly variable. Host countries need to consider how to ensure their health systems are “migrant-friendly”: solutions include provision of professional interpreters; ensuring that health care staff are aware of migrants’ rights to access health care; and increasing knowledge of migrants in relation to the organization of the health care system in their host country and how to access care, for example through the use of patient navigators. However, perhaps one of the greatest facilitators for migrants will be a more favorable political situation, which stops demonizing people who are forced to migrate due to situations out of their control.
Catherine A. O'Donnell
José Gomes Temporão and Carlos Augusto Grabois Gadelha
The health economic-industrial complex concept was developed in Brazil in the early 2000s, integrating a structuralist view of the political economy with a public health vision. This perspective advances, in relation to sectoral approaches in health industries and services, toward a systemic approach to the productive environment, focusing on the dimensions of innovation and universal access to health. Health production is seen in an interdependent way, recognizing that the different industrial and service sectors have strong articulations that need to be integrated. The shift toward a universal care model that focuses on human and social needs requires a productive knowledge base that favors promotion, prevention, and local and permanent healthcare, requiring new productive patterns of goods and services and innovation. Therefore, these dimensions are not conceptually apart from each other, considering an analytical and political point of view. The production, care, and sustainability of universal health systems are understood in an integrated and systemic way. Within this vision, a cognitive leap is presented in relation to the traditional health economics, linked to the allocation of scarce resources, to a vision of health political economy that favors the development, expansion, and transformation of the health system and its economic and industrial base. Health is conceived as a moral right of citizenship and a vital space for the development of countries (and for global health), generating social inclusion, equity, innovation, and a possibility for the cooperation between countries and peoples. The Brazilian experience is an exemplary case of association between the development of theoretical conception and its implementation in the national health policy that led to the link between economic development policies and social policies. It was possible to advance both conceptually in terms of a vision of health and social well-being and in contributing to a new paradigm of public policies. This perspective allowed the guidance of guide industrial development and services toward the human needs and universal health systems, considering the challenges brought by the context of an ongoing fourth technological revolution.
Susan B. Rifkin
In 1978, at an international conference in Kazakhstan, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund put forward a policy proposal entitled “Primary Health Care” (PHC). Adopted by all the World Health Organization member states, the proposal catalyzed ideas and experiences by which governments and people began to change their views about how good health was obtained and sustained. The Declaration of Alma-Ata (as it is known, after the city in which the conference was held) committed member states to take action to achieve the WHO definition of health as “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Arguing that good health was not merely the result of biomedical advances, health-services provision, and professional care, the declaration stated that health was a human right, that the inequality of health status among the world’s populations was unacceptable, and that people had a right and duty to become involved in the planning and implementation of their own healthcare. It proposed that this policy be supported through collaboration with other government sectors to ensure that health was recognized as a key to development planning. Under the banner call “Health for All by the Year 2000,” WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund set out to turn their vision for improving health into practice. They confronted a number of critical challenges. These included defining PHC and translating PHC into practice, developing frameworks to translate equity into action, experiencing both the potential and the limitations of community participation in helping to achieve the WHO definition of health, and seeking the necessary financing to support the transformation of health systems. These challenges were taken up by global, national, and nongovernmental organization programs in efforts to balance the PHC vision with the realities of health-service delivery. The implementation of these programs had varying degrees of success and failure. In the future, PHC will need to address to critical concerns, the first of which is how to address the pressing health issues of the early 21st century, including climate change, control of noncommunicable diseases, global health emergencies, and the cost and effectiveness of humanitarian aid in the light of increasing violent disturbances and issues around global governance. The second is how PHC will influence policies emerging from the increasing understanding that health interventions should be implemented in the context of complexity rather than as linear, predictable solutions.
Rachel Humphris and Hannah Bradby
The health status of refugees and asylum seekers varies significantly across the European region. Differences are attributed to the political nature of the legal categories of “asylum seeker” and “refugee”; the wide disparities in national health services; and the diversity in individual characteristics of this population including age, gender, socioeconomic background, country of origin, ethnicity, language proficiency, migration trajectory, and legal status. Refugees are considered to be at risk of being or becoming relatively “unhealthy migrants” compared to those migrating on the basis of economic motives, who are characterized by the “healthy migrant effect.” Refugees and asylum seekers are at risk to the drivers of declining health associated with settlement such as poor diet and housing. Restricted access to health care whether from legal, economic, cultural, or language barriers is another likely cause of declining health status. There is also evidence to suggest that the “embodiment” of the experience of exclusion and marginalization that refugee and asylum seekers face in countries of resettlement significantly drives decrements in the health status of this population.
Saida M. Abdi
The psychosocial well-being of migrant children has become an urgent issue facing many Western countries as the number of migrant children in the population increases rapidly and health-care systems struggle to support them. Often, these children arrive with extensive exposure to trauma and loss before facing additional stressors in the host country. Yet, these children do not access mental health support even when available due to multiple barriers. These barriers include cultural and linguistic barriers, the primacy of resettlement needs, and the stigma attached to mental health illness. In order to improve mental health services for migrant children, there is a need to move away from focusing on trauma and mental health symptoms and to look instead at migrant children’s well-being across multiple domains, including activities that can promote or diminish psychological well-being. Trauma Systems Therapy for Refugees (TST-R) is an example of an approach that has succeeded in overcoming these barriers by adopting a culturally relevant and comprehensive approach to mental health care.
Maria Cecília de Souza Minayo and Saul Franco
Violence is a problem that accompanies the trajectory of humanity, but it presents itself in different ways in each society and throughout its historical development. Despite having different meanings according to the field of knowledge from which it is addressed and the institutions that tackle it, there are some common elements in the definition of this phenomenon. It is acknowledged as the intentional use of force and power by individuals, groups, classes, or countries to impose themselves on others, causing harm and limiting or denying rights. Its most frequent and visible forms include homicides, suicides, war, and terrorism, but violence is also articulated and manifested in less visible forms, such as gender violence, domestic violence, and enforced disappearances. Although attention to the consequences of different forms of violence has always been part of health services, its formal and global inclusion in health sector policies and guidelines is very recent. It was only in 1996 that the World Health Organization acknowledged it as a priority in the health programs of all countries. Violence affects individual and collective health; causes deaths, injuries, and physical and mental trauma; decreases the quality of life; and impairs the well-being of people, communities, and nations. At the same time, violence poses problems for health researchers trying to understand the complexity of its causes, its dynamics, and the different ways of dealing with it. It also poses serious challenges to health systems and services for the care of victims and perpetrators and the formulation of interdisciplinary, multi-professional, inter-sectoral, and socially articulated confrontation and prevention policies and programs.
Fernando Arbués and Marián García-Valiñas
In the current context of climate change, water scarcity has become the center of an intense debate in recent years. Spain is a country affected by strong regional differences in terms of weather; thus, the quality and availability of water resources vary widely depending on the area, and the country is plagued by droughts and problems with water quality. Nevertheless, urban water prices in Spain are among the lowest in the European Union. Moreover, it is a federal country where subcentral governments (regional and local) are autonomous entities with different responsibilities in the design of water policies. The extremely atomized local panorama and the strong power of the regional governments have led to a highly complex system with a wide range of water price levels and structures. Since the heterogeneity is so great, this article focuses on the tariffs related to the water supply service in the 15 largest Spanish cities. In general, urban water tariffs commonly distinguish between residential and non-residential users. Additionally, there are usually specific tariffs for different customer categories within both residential and non-residential users, which are not always justified in terms of the equity principle. It is important to note that in most cities the eligibility criteria for these special tariffs usually add more complexity to the tariff system and adversely affect horizontal equity. All these factors contribute to the great complexity of Spain’s water-pricing map. The heterogeneous tariff system found in most Spanish cities runs counter to equity principles and can send the wrong signal to users about water scarcity, thereby hindering compliance with the resource sustainability objective. Thus, most Spanish cities require a simplification of the tariff system.