WHO launches technical guidance series on the health of refugees and migrants

WHO is marking International Migrants Day on 18 December 2018 with the launch of a technical guidance series on the health of refugees and migrants. Produced in collaboration with the European Commission, each publication addresses a specific aspect of the health of refugees and migrants by providing tools, case studies and evidence to inform practices and policies to improve their health.

Five publications are currently available, each with a special focus on one of the following:

  • children’s health;
  • health promotion;
  • healthy ageing;
  • maternal and newborn health; and
  • mental health.

This technical guidance series complements the forthcoming “Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region”, which will be published online in the first quarter of 2019.

Health of refugee and migrant children

When considering health and health-care interventions for migrant children, areas that need specific attention include their diverse backgrounds, whether they are unaccompanied and separated from family, whether they have been trafficked, and whether they have been left behind.

This technical guidance presents policy considerations for promoting refugee and migrant children’s health and well-being, and particularly their mental health. It includes an intersectoral approach that targets risk factors at the individual, family and community levels. It emphasizes the important role of national/local governments in fostering or hindering equitable living conditions for refugee and migrant children in the areas of housing, health-care services and education.

Health promotion for improved refugee and migrant health

This technical guidance outlines current best practices, evidence and knowledge to inform policy and programme development in the area of health promotion for refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region. It highlights key principles, summarizes priority actions and challenges, maps available resources and tools, and provides policy considerations and practical recommendations to improve health promotion activities.

Health of older refugees and migrants

Population ageing caused by consistently low birth rates and increased life expectancy is a major current trend across Europe. This technical guidance aims to inform the development of policies and practices related to improving the health of older refugees and migrants.

Both ageing and migration are in themselves complex, multidimensional processes shaped by a range of factors over the life-course of the individual. Responding to the needs of older refugees and migrants, therefore, must be integrated into all dimensions of policies and practices related to ageing.

Improving the health care of pregnant refugee and migrant women and newborn children

Being a migrant can be considered a risk factor for poorer maternal and newborn health outcomes. This technical guidance identifies problems and entry points for interventions for maternal and newborn health among refugees and migrants in the Region.

It outlines policy considerations for 4 main areas affecting refugee and migrant maternal and newborn health:

  • individual health status;
  • accessibility of health care;
  • quality of care; and
  • health-care policy and financing systems.

Mental health promotion and mental health care in refugees and migrants

The complexity and stress of migration are related to events before departure, during travel and transit, and after arrival. Consequently, refugees and migrants can suffer from mental disorders, although prevalence is highly variable across studies and population groups.

This technical guidance reviews the prevalence of some disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive and anxiety disorders. Based on the best available evidence regarding risk factors and areas for intervention, it identifies 8 priority action areas for consideration by policy-makers regarding the mental health of refugees and migrants.