Italian doctor Pietro Bartolo, the so-called 'migrant doctor' on Lampedusa, checks a migrant woman after a boat of the Italian coast guard full of migrants reached the island on October 2018 |  Photo: ANSA/ELIO DESIDERIO
Italian doctor Pietro Bartolo, the so-called 'migrant doctor' on Lampedusa, checks a migrant woman after a boat of the Italian coast guard full of migrants reached the island on October 2018 | Photo: ANSA/ELIO DESIDERIO

A reported 90 million migrants and refugees in Europe live longer compared to the rest of the European population and face lower risks of developing ill health and going to the hospital, according to a recent report released by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, this advantage tends to diminish over the years of permanence in host countries, according to the report.

A reported 90 million migrants and refugees in Europe live on average longer than the rest of the European population and face lower risks of developing ill health and going to the hospital, according to a recent report released by the World Health Organization (WHO). 


However, this advantage tends to decrease over the years spent in host countries, according to the report on the health of refugees and migrants in the European region, based on 13,000 documents from 53 countries in the area. 

The report, said Italian Health Minister Giulia Grillo, highlights that ''there is no increase in the transmission of infectious diseases by the migrant population."

Data from WHO report 

The report, which is the first of its kind, said that migrants represent about 10 percent of the general population and have a lower mortality rate for diseases including cancer. However, migrants and refugees tend to develop over the years the diseases that are most common in the areas where they are living. Chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes have a lower rate among those who have recently travelled to the European region but tend to increase over the years and to converge with the rest of the population in the host country. 

Migrants nevertheless have more accidents at work and problems during pregnancy and in early childhood. They are much more exposed to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, a problem that concerns up to 36 percent of refugees and 2 percent of migrants, according to the report. 

Moreover, a higher percentage of infectious diseases has been recorded among foreigners, including tuberculosis and HIV, which are often contracted during their journey or in the countries of destination. The risk of transmission to the rest of the population is ''very low," the report said. However, in the case of tuberculosis, the report said, 80 percent of transmission cases concern 18 countries in Eastern Europe; only 30 percent of new cases are reported among migrants and refugees in European countries. 

Document aimed at downplaying prejudice on migrants' health 

Piroska Oestlin, the vice director of WHO Europe, said that ''we often have preconceptions on the health of migrants but we now have concrete solid foundations'' to reduce prejudice. Grillo stressed that, as highlighted by the report, ''there is no public health without the health of refugees and migrants." The new challenge for the national health service is to shift attention ''from the problem of infectious diseases upon arrival in Italy to chronic conditions'', said Grillo. 

The report was drafted with the scientific support of the National Institute for the promotion of health of the migrant population and the fight against the diseases of poverty (Inmp), which has just started collaborating with the WHO on the scientific evidence and capacity building regarding migrants' health. ''Only thanks to evidence and research it is possible to have data giving the possibility of addressing precise political choices'' and avoid ''fake alarms'' said the general director of Inmp, Concetta Mirisola.
 

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