Research

The socioeconomic and environmental health situation of international migrants in Johannesburg, South Africa

Angela Mathee, Nisha Naicker

Abstract


Background. Around the world, cities are dealing with growing numbers of international migrants (IMs). Many migrants are likely to have encountered exceptional challenges through the migration process, with implications for their health. Nevertheless, studies conducted in several developed countries point to a pattern of better health in migrant groups – the ‘healthy migrant’ effect. However, little is known about the health of migrants in poorly resourced destination countries, especially in African settings.

Objectives. To compare living conditions and environmental health status in IMs relative to South African (SA) households, both living in settings of poverty in Johannesburg, SA.

Methods. Data were extracted from a long-term panel study underway in five neighbourhoods of Johannesburg. Cross-sectional studies, undertaken annually from 2006 to 2010, involved the annual administration of questionnaires to around 500 households to obtain information on living conditions and health.

Results. Most of the differences observed through univariate analyses in living conditions and health status between IM and SA households were explained by controlling for socioeconomic and neighbourhood factors.

Conclusion. This study revealed that SA respondents and IMs in settings of urban poverty in Johannesburg had remarkably similar health status, with little evidence of a ‘healthy migrant’ effect. Nevertheless the authors argue for vigilance and a finer understanding of the unique sociocultural dimensions of health in migrant communities in Johannesburg as they continue to transform the profile of urban health in SA and other African cities. 



Authors' affiliations

Angela Mathee, Environment & Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa; Environment Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, South Africa; School of Public Health Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Nisha Naicker, Environment & Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Johannesburg, South Africa; School of Public Health Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

Migration; Environmental health; Urban; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(1):70-75. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i1.10215

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-10-16
Date published: 2015-11-22

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