A study analyses the health status of immigrant population in Raval neighbourhood in Barcelona

January 14, 2014
Researchers Esther Esteban, Olga Hladun and Albert Grau, at the Faculty of Biologia of the University of Barcelona.

To know the incidence and risk factors for some diseases in Barcelona's immigrant population in Spain is the main objective of a study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine. The article is signed by experts Esther Esteban, from the Department of Animal Biology of the University of Barcelona, Olga Hladun and Albert Grau, doctors at the Catalan Institute of Health, and Josep M. Jansà, expert from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC, Sweden).

The study, which collects data from 2001 to 2005, has been possible thanks to the collaboration of 3,132 immigrants from low-income countries who attended the public primary (PHC) centre Raval Nord, located in the district of Ciutat Vella, the historical centre of Barcelona. This study analyses the largest sample of immigrant patients screened in a public PHC unit in Spain.

Primary Health Care centres: health in the neighbourhood

Professor Esther Esteban, expert on human diversity studies, explains that "the study aims at clarifying the degree of demographic differences among immigrants (age, sex, country of origin, etc.) that may help us to describe their health status and to improve future initiatives in the field of care." The study took place in El Raval, one of the neighbourhoods of the historical centre of Barcelona where a high percentage of immigrants live. Albert Grau, family doctor at the PHC centre Raval Nord, stresses that "the idea of the study was to include immigrants who were first attended in the PHC centre, which is the first level of health care in the neighbourhood".

Experts analyse the prevalence and risk predictors for five infectious diseases (hepatitis B and C, human immunodeficiency virus infection, syphilis and tuberculosis) in immigrants from low-income countries; to be exact, the countries most represented in the sample are Pakistan, Ecuador, Philippines, Morocco, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Bangladesh, Peru and Dominican Republic. The family doctor Olga Hladun affirms that "they are diseases without borders, you can find them all over the world; some of them are more prevalent in immigrants' countries of origin (for example, tuberculosis). Their wrong treatment generates high expenses, not only for patients, but also in the sense of social and health care (drug, hospitalization, etc.)."

Tuberculosis: more years of residence, more prevalence

According to the study, tuberculosis values, even though they are not alarming, do not decrease as the number of years that immigrants have lived in the host country increase. On the contrary, the values are increased in both, active (infectious) and latent tuberculosis (not symptomatic or contagious). The spread of the disease, highly connected with socioeconomic status, proves that living conditions (housing conditions, number of people living in the same flat, etc.) have not improved among the immigrants who live in the neighbourhood. Experts point out that tuberculosis epidemiological surveillance should be stressed, regardless of the years of residence in Spain.

In the case of hepatitis C, authors suggest performing a workup on all patients who show altered levels of liver transaminases. The study also indicates that gastrointestinal symptoms may be a risk predictor in hepatitis B. Regarding HIV infection, experts point out that data are insufficient to draw any conclusion as, historically, these patients have been attended to in the Unit of Tropical Medicine and International Health Drassanes, located in the same district of the city.

Immigration and public health: myths and reality

Experts affirm that make the same use of healthcare resources than autochthonous one. "Immigrants do not over-use public healthcare resources," says Albert Grau, "even if the access to the system is much easier than in their countries of origin. In general, who arrive to our country have good health status within their original countries."

The study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine provides new tools for public health authorities to make decisions and it can be extrapolated to similar neighbourhoods in any worldwide city. Besides analysing the of an immigrant population in a European city, the study aims at stressing the importance of as a tool for disease prevention. Authors recommend providing family doctors with better information and alert about the negative effects of cost-cutting exercises in .

Explore further: Immigration status impacts health, especially for the young

More information: "Results From Screening Immigrants of Low-Income Countries: Data From a Public Primary Health Care." Olga Hladun, Albert Grau, Esther Esteban, Josep M. Jansà. Journal of Travel Medicine, 2013. DOI: 10.1111/jtm.12083

Related Stories

Immigration status impacts health, especially for the young

December 11, 2013
Age at immigration and citizenship status may have health implications for immigrants, finds a new study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Study finds immigrants account for only 1.4 percent of US medical spending

June 17, 2013
A study by a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher revealed that unauthorized immigrants have lower health care expenditures compared to legal residents, naturalized citizens and U.S. natives.

ACA brings legal immigrants opportunities as well as responsibilities

December 16, 2013
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not expand access to health insurance for undocumented immigrants but may pave the way for many legal immigrants who have trouble obtaining this crucial coverage, concludes a report released ...

An urban challenge: Diagnosing and treating latent tuberculosis infection

June 5, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A new study from Yale Schools of Medicine and Public Health reveals the challenges in identifying high-risk people in urban settings, especially foreign-born individuals, who may have latent tuberculosis ...

Administration: Personal info for health care only

October 27, 2013
The Obama administration is stressing that information provided while signing up for coverage under the new health care law will not be used to enforce immigration law.

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.