International initiative on migrant health data

Portrait of Soorej

The publication aims to assist decision-makers in developing evidence-informed policies and actions to ‘leave no one behind,” explains Soorej Jose Puthoopparambil.

Photograph: Mikael Wallerstedt

In a collaboration with Uppsala University, the WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) has published new technical guidance describing why and how European Union Member States should collect health data on refugees and migrants through their national health information systems (HISs). On 27 January, the initiative will be presented at a WHO webinar.

Greater global mobility has resulted in increasingly multicultural societies and changed health needs. The WHO programme Migration and Health works to support Member States’ efforts to include refugees and migrants in public health goals, according to the principle of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3: to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

In order to promote health and measure progress towards this SDG, it is necessary to systematically collect data on health and health indicators for refugees and migrants.

“Reliable and good quality data is essential to reduce health inequality among all, including refugees and migrants, and to achieve the SDGs. Consistent data is needed to ensure policies are sound and that operational and legislative responses effectively reach those they are intended to help. The publication aims to assist decision-makers in developing evidence-informed policies and actions to ‘leave no one behind,” explains Soorej Jose Puthoopparambil, senior lecturer in global health at Uppsala University’s Department of Women’s and Children’s Health.

Filling in gaps in knowledge

Soorej Jose Puthoopparambil is lead author of the publication, which contains practical advice for integrating health and health-related variables into national and/or subnational HISs. He sees this as an important step in the direction of filling in gaps in knowledge regarding the health of refugees and migrants.

One proposal is to integrate a set of key variables into national HISs. This will make it easier to share data based on migration status and gain insights into the health status of refugees and migrants that can then be translated into effective public health programmes.

Aimed at policymakers

The publication is primarily aimed at policymakers, public authorities and non-governmental organisations working in the sector at local, regional and national level. The content will also prove useful to healthcare professionals, health planners and health data specialists.

“Uppsala University is honoured to support WHO/Europe in its efforts to safeguard and promote the health of refugees and migrants.” says Eva Åkesson, former vice-chancellor of Uppsala University, when the publication was launched in December.

“This technical guidance provides practical guidance to integrate migration health data into national HIS, which present a valuable mechanism and offer information to develop targeted health interventions not only for refugees and migrants, but for the entire population, including other vulnerable groups. “

Technical guidance for improved health

The publication Collection and integration of data on refugee and migrant health in the WHO European Region is a collaboration between WHO/Europe, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Global Migration Data Analysis Center, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The collaboration also includes researchers from Uppsala University and other higher education institutions. The goal is to develop evidence-based documentation that can guide Member States’ efforts to ensure the right to health for all.

On 27 January, the initiative will be presented at a WHO webinar.

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