Integration of Migrants into Universal Health Coverage as a priority for Global Health
The UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health launched the report in December 2018 at the Intergovernmental Conference on the Global Compact for Migration. A month later, they organised a policy-focused event at Chatham House to discuss the barriers and means to achieving Universal Health Coverage for migrants.
“Why should we watch other people suffer from illness for the reason that they don’t have a certain piece of paper?”, asked Professor Ibrahim Abubakar (Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health and Chair of the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health) in his opening remarks.
Despite the international commitment to Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Care, a large number of migrants and refugees worldwide are denied access to essential health care services. Clearly, we still have a long way to go as a society to bridge the gap between the ideal of “health for all” and the harsh reality. Many invoke economic or sovereignty arguments, but this rhetoric is challenged in the recently published report from the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health: the health of a world on the move. The Commission argues that racism and prejudice are still prevalent reasons for exclusion.
The UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health held its UK launch with an invited panel on Friday 18th January co-organised with Chatham House, to discuss the barriers and means to achieving Universal Health Coverage for migrants. International speakers presented from academic, policy and operational backgrounds:
- Professor Ibrahim Abubakar (Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health and Chair of the UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health)
- Dr Poonam Dhavan (Senior Migration Health Policy Advisor, Migration Health Division, International Organisation for Migration)
- Dr Bernadette Kumar (Norwegian Institute of Public Health and President of European Public Health Association Section Migration and Ethnic Minority Health)
- Susana Martinez (Cluster for Strategic Initiatives leading Inter-Agency Collaboration, World Health Organization- Professor Neil Squires, Director of Global Public Health, Public Health England)
- Chair: Dr Richard Horton (Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet)
“Not only are some populations left behind, they are also intentionally kept down because of misconceptions and prejudice”, remarked Dr Kumar. In order to address this issue, the healthcare community needs to advocate strongly for a change in public opinion about migrants and refugees. We need to give the cause a strong voice, via the media and civil society, and make an economic and humanitarian case for the provision of healthcare for all people, regardless of legal status. Inter-sectoral collaboration will also be crucial, for instance with the education sector.
After the plenary session, panel members were joined by a group of academics, clinicians, policy makers, and representatives of NGOs, for a roundtable discussion focused on strategy and implementation. Over the two hour roundtable the arguments were made that whilst there is arguably a lack of leadership at international level, there is a strong case for collective and coherent action at all levels to catalyse change and hold decision-makers accountable. Education of healthcare professionals and the public need to act to reduce the exclusion of vulnerable populations. Lastly, a new framework of thinking beyond national borders and self-interested preoccupations is needed in order to address the important challenges of our century, and their linkages, such as: climate change, migration, and health.
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