The entire migration cycle brings changes in migration-affected individuals’ physical and mental health. It may involve hygienic risks, accidents, and barriers to health access. It also affects emotions, thoughts, behaviours, beliefs and relationships with others, the way individuals perceive the world and various cultures they encounter and how they function in these environments. 

Migration health is a broad topic. It includes migration-affected individuals and communities, preexisting conditions and circumstances, and the adverse situations they may face on their journeys in transit and destination countries. 

For migrants in transit, health risks increase due to limited access to basic services and needs including safe means of transport, accommodation, safe food and health care due to factors including irregular immigration status, language barriers, lack of migrant-inclusive health policies and inaccessibility of services, xenophobia, discrimination, gender-based violence and other abuses.

Health is a human right, and access to health services for migrants without discrimination is fundamental to guarantee their protection and that of host populations in origin, transit and destination countries

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is geared towards the commitment to “leave no one behind”, including migrant populations. This means ensuring that migrant health is addressed throughout the migration cycle and working towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. 

Here are 3 key strategies that States should implement to protect migration-affected individuals and communities’ health: 

1. Inclusive approaches are key 

The migratory experience brings different challenges, but every person comes from a different context and culture. Thus, every person has different needs that shape their well-being.  

Migrants are of diverse ages, gender identities, gender expressions, ancestries, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, sex characteristics, family structures, marital statuses, and physical and mental abilities. This is why social inclusion is essential in all aspects, but especially health care. 

For migrant women, inclusive actions include providing access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights, maternal and child health services, as well as mental health support and access to contraceptives and menstrual sanitary products. 

Migrant women often play significant roles within their families, serving as caregivers and primary decision-makers for healthcare matters. When migrant women are healthy, they can better fulfill these roles and provide essential care and support to their families

Other migrant populations, such as LGBTQ+ migrants, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, children and the elderly require approaches and measures that are suitable for their particular needs. 

Healthier individuals build healthier community, which is why everyone’s needs and resources should be considered.  

2. Don’t leave mental health behind 

Integrated wellbeing for migrants includes mental health and psychosocial support. The concept of psychosocial wellbeing includes the dimensions of emotional, social and cultural aspects of migration. It is important to underline that human wellbeing refers to a state, whereas psychosocial wellbeing refers to a process. 

Activities to provide psychosocial assistance should always be designed for the specific context in which they will be carried out and for the needs of the people affected. It is necessary to have professionals who know how to direct the activities and recognize cultural differences 

For example, trafficked persons, stranded migrants, migrants in detention, unaccompanied and separated children, survivors of gender-based violence, migrants assisted to return to their country of origin and other returnees, and other migrants in need of protection have different vulnerabilities and thus need different services. 

Psychosocial support can include artistic interventions, sensitizing and training all health personnel and migration authorities about the rights, contexts and conditions of the migration process. 

Even celebrations, sport and play, are activities that can improve physical and mental health. These types of support can lead to stronger community ties, and sharing this resilience with other people who may need it. 

3. Include migrants in health care advocacy 

It is crucial to include migration-affected individuals´ in decision-making and leadership processes. Some myths, like that migrants are the ones responsible for disease transmission are false and counterproductive. Viruses and bacteria do not discriminate based on a person's migration status or nationality. In reality, the problem is the lack of access to healthcare and prevention services in the migration process. Furthermore, migrants can help their communities in times of crises and advocate for better access to universal healthcare. 

By learning first-hand about the barriers they face in accessing healthcare, migrants can be a powerful group in advocating for implementing public policies that guarantee equitable access to healthcare for all, including those with irregular migratory status. 

Migrants often bring valuable experiences and knowledge about health practices and disease management from their countries of origin. These insights can greatly benefit healthcare providers and health researchers in receiving communities. 

Migrants can contribute to the productive life of host communities where they live, including by holding positions as relevant as health professionals or health assistants. 

In crises and emergencies, migrants are first and foremost to be viewed as active participants in improving individual and collective well-being, rather than as passive recipients of services that are designed for them by others.

Migration is a huge driver for economic and human development in host communities of origin, transit and destination. 

By investing in migration-affected individuals´ health and ensuring a better access to healthcare services for all, governments facilitate their integration into society, enhance their productivity, and foster social cohesion by reducing disparities in health outcomes between migrants and host communities. These actions also uphold the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and human dignity for all. 

Facilitating migrants' access to health systems benefits society as a whole in communities of origin, transit and destination.  

There is no health for all without the health of migrants.