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What is migration health?


To unge gutter og én eldre kvinne ute i naturen
Foto: Joe Urrutia

Migration health encompasses a field within academia, research, education, policy and clinical practices that focuses on the relationship between migration and health.

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Central to this field is the study on how migration processes and migrant backgrounds can affect the state of health and the occurrence of illness, as well as access to and quality of health care services.

The field involves professionals from a number of health and social disciplines. The importance of this field has grown as a result of a significant increase in Norway’s immigrant population over the past 20 years.

Migration health and implications for public health work

Knowledge derived from studies on migration health can be useful for the design and provision of health care services and social planning. A good overview and knowledge about issues concerning migration health are key to enable communities to maintain good health and high levels of patient safety for the entire population, including those who have migrated from other countries.

Key questions in migration health

  • What happens to those who move from one country to another?
  • How do migration processes affect the state of health and the occurrence of illnesses?
  • What happens in the interactions between immigrants and health services?
  • To what degree do immigrants and their descendants have access to health care services?
  • How is the quality of the health care services for immigrants and their descendants?
  • How to ensure good and equitable health care for immigrants and their descendants?
  • What causes disparities in health conditions between different ethnic groups?
  • How to ensure good health for refugees?
  • How to adapt health services to immigrants and their descendants?
  • How to improve competency in health services?

Key areas in migration health

Migration health is a field in the making and it spans across many different topics and professional disciplines. Of which the most important are:

  • Public health
  • Epidemiology
  • Medicine
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Social anthropology
  • Communication
  • Ethics

Key stakeholders in migration health

The field of migration health has an increasing number of stakeholders both nationally and internationally. Key stakeholders represent research and education institutions public health care institutions and actors from the non-profit sector. Examples are:

  • International: WHO, IOM, EU
  • NAKMI, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  • Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh
  • The Danish Research Centre for Migration, Ethnicity and Health (MESU)
  • EUPHA, Section on Migrant and Ethnic Minority Health
  • University of Bergen

Related fields

  • Social inequalities in health
  • Global health
  • Communicable diseases
  • Public health
  • Health communication
  • Equity in health care
  • Discrimination
  • Health of indigenous peoples
  • Community medicine


The field of migration health originated from an interest in medical conditions in other countries. Somewhat simplified we can, historically, draw a line from tropical medicine via international health to migration health. Another factor in the development of migration health as a field is the need for better public health data in multi-ethnic countries with an early and high influx of immigrants, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.