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Report Shows Migrants Do Not Bring Diseases and Actually Help Economy
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6 Dec 2018 02:14 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Life at the border (Image source: Screenshot)


Those who are fighting for stricter border policies often say that it's the migrants who bring disease into the country and that they hurt the economy. But a new report released Wednesday states the opposite is true. Not only are they not bringing in diseases, but they actually help the country's economy and overall health.


With more than 5,000 Central American migrants waiting at the border to claim asylum and enter the United States, this is an important discovery. We now know we don't have to worry about them bringing diseases with them or sucking the economy dry.  

And, quite frankly, it would seem that the people who have made it to the border are healthy for the most part, as it would be difficult to walk for two months if you're unhealthy.


"There is no evidence to show that migrants are spreading disease," said Dr. Paul Spiegel, the director for Humanitarian Health at John Hopkins School of Public Health. "That is a false argument that is used to keep migrants out," he added. 

Terry McGovern, head of Columbia University's Department of Population and Family Health agrees: "Contrary to the current political narrative portraying migrants as disease carriers who are a blight on society, migrants are an essential part of economic stability in the U.S."


The two experts were included with 22 others in a two-year project analyzing the possibility of migrants spreading disease and looking into effects they may have on health. The study concluded that migration actually benefits economies and that people use those myths to oppose it. 

"In too many countries, the issue of migration is used to divide societies and advance a populist agenda," explained Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet medical journal, the publisher of the recent study.


"With one-billion people on the move today, growing populations in many regions of the world and the rising aspirations of a new generation of young people, migration is not going away," he added.  

"Migrants commonly contribute more to the economy than they cost, and how we shape their health and well-being today will impact our societies for generations to come."


A quarter of the one-billion migrants in the world are moving between countries, according to the report. The majority is moving internally.  

Additionally, international migrants are less likely than people in their destination countries to die of heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, and other illnesses. While hepatitis, tuberculosis, and HIV are exceptions to this rule, those are generally only spread within the affected immigrant communities and not to the rest of the population.


What actually hurts migrants more are the conditions in refugee camps and detention centers, as that can lead to them not receiving the proper vaccinations and spreading infectious diseases, adds Spiegel.  

"It's not migrants or migration itself that is spreading disease. It may be the situations that they are in and the lack of access to basic care that may exacerbate the situation," he explained.


There are also fears that immigrants will multiply at a faster rate than the citizens of their host country. The study found that in six European countries, the fertility rates of migrant women were lower than those who were born in the host country. 

To counteract the health care concerns even more, a significant amount of health care workers are immigrants.


A Journal of the American Medical Association report published that 16 percent of U.S. health care workers were born in a different country, and that includes 29 percent of physicians, 16 percent of RNs, 20 percent of pharmacists, 24 percent of dentists, and 23 percent of nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides. 

The Lancet explained, "Rather than being a burden, migrants are more likely to bolster services by providing medical care, teaching children, caring for older people, and supporting understaffed services."


While the Trump administration would like to make it more difficult for immigrants in the U.S. legally to get visas or green cards if they use services such as Medicaid, food stamps, or public housing, the American Medical Association says that will cost taxpayers more money in the long run. 

"Foregoing care can exacerbate medical conditions, leading to sicker patients and a higher reliance on hospital emergency departments. In turn, this could drive up costs for all purchasers of care," said Rick Pollack, the president of the American Hospital Association, in a statement.

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