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Immigration, Health Care and Health

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

A collection of analyses and research findings examining the link between immigration status, health care and health.

When people in America are forced to live in fear because of their immigration status, their health and the health of our nation suffers.

Research shows that immigrant families often forgo needed health care and social services because they fear interactions with public agencies.

In an RWJF-supported study, authors examined factors that affect immigrants' vulnerability to inadequate health care, including socioeconomic background; immigration status; limited English proficiency; federal, state and local policies on access to publicly funded health care; residential location; and stigma and marginalization. The study concluded that, overall, immigrants have lower rates of health insurance, use less health care and receive lower quality of care than U.S.-born populations.

In addition, toxic stress associated with fear of deportation has been shown to have harmful effects on an individual’s long-term physical and mental health. Children are especially vulnerable to this type of trauma, which acts as a barrier to normal physical and mental development and health. Furthermore, fear of deportation has significant impact on uptake of non-medical services, such as food assistance, that are important to good health.

In connection with past and current programs focused on identifying barriers to good health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) continues to examine the impact of immigration status on health care and health. The below articles provide a sampling of analysis and research findings stemming from these efforts.

Breaking Down Barriers to Preventive Care (Immigration Policy Lab). A summary of RWJF-supported study in which researchers analyzed the effects of a pilot program to expand access among undocumented and recently arrived immigrants to publicly funded prenatal care.

The Impact of Local Immigration Enforcement Policies on the Health of Immigrant Hispanics/Latinos in the United States (American Journal of Public Health). An analysis of the impact of local immigration enforcement policies on the utilization of health services among immigrant Hispanics/Latinos in North Carolina.

Partnering with Parents and Families to Support Immigrant and Refugee Children at School (The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University). An RWJF-supported analysis of model programs that engage communities and community organizations to build effective and easily-accessible mental health services for immigrant children and youth.

Immigrants And Health Care: Sources Of Vulnerability (Health Affairs). An examination of factors that affect immigrants' vulnerability to inadequate health care, such as socioeconomic background, immigration status, and federal, state and local policies on access to publicly funded care.

Caring Across Communities: Addressing Mental Health Needs of Diverse Children and Youth (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). A report on the results of an RWJF national program that brought school-connected mental health services to immigrants and refugees at 15 sites in eight states.

Parental Immigrant Status is Associated with Children's Health Care Utilization (Maternal and Child Health). An examination of the association between parental immigration status and child health and health care utilization.

Prevalence of Chronic Disease and Insurance Coverage Among Refugees in the United States (Journal of Immigrant Minority Health). A national study to increase understanding health status differences among refugees and other immigrants.

Determinants of Health Insurance Status for Children of Latino Immigrant and Other US Farm Workers: Findings From the National Agricultural Workers Survey (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine). An employer-based survey to characterize the health insurance status of farmworkers' children.

The Role of Health Insurance in Explaining Immigrant Versus Non-Immigrant Disparities in Access to Health Care: Comparing the United States to Canada (Social Science & Medicine). An examination of the influence of health insurance on U.S. immigrant versus non-immigrant disparities in access to primary health care.

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