Health challenges for migrants and ethnic minorities tackled at global conference

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Global experts are gathering in Edinburgh to tackle health disadvantages associated with migration, ethnicity and race.

Around 700 experts from 50 countries are meeting to examine a wide range of topical issues, ranging from providing healthcare for Syrian and Rohingya refugees to the health impact of modern slavery in the UK.

They will also discuss differences in life expectancy and health advantages associated with some ethnic minority populations in Europe.

The meeting aims to galvanise global efforts to improve healthcare for migrants and other populations worldwide who face discrimination.

Migration is a growing matter of global political and humanitarian concern. Every day, thousands of people leave their homes in search of a better life. Some leave voluntarily to escape poverty while others are fleeing war and persecution.

The First World Congress on Migration, Ethnicity, Race and Health focuses on the health implications associated with the movement of people around the world.

It will also consider the serious health disadvantages affecting ethnic and racial minority groups, including indigenous populations in North America, Australia and New Zealand and the Roma in Europe.

Participants will share perspectives from politics, medicine, social services and public health.

Presenters will highlight the mental health problems of refugees who have experienced torture in the country they have escaped from, or loneliness and homelessness in the one they have come to. Others will show how settled ethnic minorities can be particularly at risk of chronic health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

Not all experiences are negative, however. Research from Scotland will show how ethnic minority populations such as the Chinese, Pakistanis and Indians typically have better average health than the White Scottish population.

Presentations from Europe and Australia will show how individual care can be greatly improved when health authorities help recent migrants to understand their rights and how to access services, by providing interpreters for example.

The three-day event is hosted by the University of Edinburgh, the European Public Health Association and NHS Health Scotland.

Professor Laurence Gruer, Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh, said: "This is the first global event of its kind. We will be hearing about many distressing situations, but also sharing numerous examples of what can be done when understanding and generosity are combined with professionalism and adequate resources."

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