Staying Healthy in Migration
Zurich, Basel, Switzerland (Case studies) Bern, Biel, and Geneva, Switzerland (Group discussions)
Despite growing demand for changing research perspectives since the 1992 WHO-Conference "Migration and Health", only few researchers studied health and well-being of migrant people instead of disease and illness. Very little is known about the experience of health and daily health activities of migrant people. Knowing more about resilience (capacity to bounce back from adversity) and health resources mobilised by migrant people is needed for planning future health policy and practice. The mixed African-Swiss research team explored health concepts and daily activities of African women and men living in Zurich and Basel through in-depth interviews and participant observation. For this exploratory study we selected persons who were resilient (as defined by themselves or others). Based on these case studies, research instruments for a participatory rapid assessment were developed and tested in group discussions in Bern, Biel, and Geneva. Data were analysed in an iterative process of team discussion. The studied African migrants understand health as dynamic and multidimensional. Staying healthy is closely related to various personal, social and material resources they mobilise in response to the demands of difficult life conditions. Resilient migrants in our study have appropriated the illness concept of stress popular in Switzerland and Europe but hardly known in their home countries. The concept of stress not only gives meaning and helps to explain their bodily and emotional symptoms; it also offers an agenda for action and their feelings of social belonging in the host country. Resilient African migrants' understanding of health is similar to concepts and guidelines formulated by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and Health Promotion Switzerland based on the Ottawa Charta. They have further appropriated the concept of "stress" and the associated agenda for action. This opens a broad space for more effective interaction between health providers, social workers and migrant people.
The data show that resilient migrants have a dynamic and multi-dimensional understanding of health and see "staying healthy" under difficult life conditions as a task. Staying healthy is closely related to various personal, social and material resources they mobilise in response to the demands of difficult life conditions. The migrants have further learnt to interpret their difficulties as "stress", a popular illness concept in Switzerland and Europe but hardly known in their home countries. Resilience seems closely related with the appropriation of "stress" as an illness concept: It not only gives meaning and helps to explain their bodily and emotional symptoms, it also offers an agenda for action and contributes to their feeling of social belonging in the host country. These findings have important implications for policy and practice in the rapidly changing field of migration and health.
For the exploratory study, in-depth interviews and participant observation where conducted with selected persons who defined themselves as resilient (or where definded by others). Based on these case studies, in a second step, research instruments for a participatory rapid assessment were developed and tested in group discussions. Data were afterwards analysed in an iterative process of team discussions.
|Ethical approval||No||Study type||
|Start - End date||01.12.2003 - 28.01.2006|