A PLOS Medicine special issue devoted to refugee and migrant health



Credit: geralt, Pixabay

This week, the open-access journal PLOS Medicine launches its latest Special Issue, focused on research and commentary about the health of refugees and migrants.

As discussed in a recent Editorial in the journal, in recent years there has been a large increase in the number of people migrating both within countries and internationally, voluntarily or otherwise. Migration can be motivated by diverse factors, including conflict and violence, population growth and environmental degradation, and escape from economic hardship. The health of those people migrating can be adversely affected by the situation which led to their displacement, and further threats to their safety, health and wellbeing may arise during the process of migration or in a destination country.

Continued growth in migration is expected, and the aim of the Special Issue is to document the health challenges faced by refugees and migrants in different settings worldwide, and to highlight opportunities to develop policy and practice aimed at improving their health and wellbeing. Guest editors Paul Spiegel, Terry McGovern and Kolitha Wickramage have advised on the content of the issue, which begins with a report from Megan Doherty of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Canada, and colleagues.

In the past 5 years, large numbers of Rohingya people have been displaced from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh. Doherty and co-authors studied 311 people, 156 with serious health problems and 155 caregivers, living in refugee camps in 2017. Among those reporting health problems, 64% had a significant physical disability, 21% reported having treatment-resistant tuberculosis, and 10% had cancer. Caregivers were often family members, and reported providing more than 13 hours of care per day, on average. Importantly, 62% of those with health problems reported experiencing significant pain, and the majority of available pain treatments were judged to be ineffective, indicating a need to provide palliative care components in humanitarian settings.

In a second research study, Sarah Crede and colleagues from the University of Sheffield, UK report on the use of paediatric emergency care by mothers in Bradford born outside, as compared with those born in, the UK or Ireland. Among 10,168 mothers in the Born in Bradford study who gave birth to children in the period from April 2007 to June 2011, about one third were born outside the UK.

Crede and colleagues found that mothers born outside the UK were less likely to make a first visit to the emergency department with their children (odds ratio 0.88, 95% CI 0.80-0.97, p=0.012), which could indicate a limited awareness of, or hesitancy about attending, health care by some migrant groups. Reasons for attending and the proportions admitted to hospital were similar across the two populations. On the other hand, among the study participants using the emergency department, utilization rates were higher for children of migrant mothers (incidence rate ratio 1.19, 95% CI 1.01-1.40, p=0.04). Migrants from Europe and those who had been in the UK for longer than 5 years had higher utilization rates. Studies of this type in high-income countries can help to guide provision of appropriate health services for children, and highlight populations for whom access should be improved.


Image Credit: geralt, Pixabay

Research Article – Doherty et al


World Child Cancer provided unrestricted funding to MD for completion of the research project (no grant number) (https://www.worldchildcancer.org). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests:

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Doherty M, Power L, Petrova M, Gunn S, Powell R, Coghlan R, et al. (2020) Illness-related suffering and need for palliative care in Rohingya refugees and caregivers in Bangladesh: A cross-sectional study. PLoS Med 17(3): e1003011. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003011

Author Affiliations:

Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

World Child Cancer, London, United Kingdom

Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Cambridge Palliative and End of Life Care Group, Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Faculty of Medicine, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

MWAPO Health Development Group, Nairobi, Kenya

Centre for Humanitarian Leadership, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia

Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, Global Health Academy, Centre for Population Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Health Protection and Emergency Management, Department of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Fasiuddin Khan Research Foundation, Dhaka, Bangladesh

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003011

Research Article – Crede et al


This research is independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research Yorkshire and Humber ARC (https://www.arc-yh.nihr.ac.uk/) Grant number: NIHR200166. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Institute of Health Research or the Department of Health and Social Care. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests:

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Credé SH, Mason S, Such E, Jacques RM (2020) Paediatric emergency department utilisation rates and maternal migration status in the Born in Bradford cohort: A cross-sectional study. PLoS Med 17(3): e1003043. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003043

Author Affiliations:

School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003043

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