The Immigrant Factor for Public Health: Let the Data SpeakA STUDY BY CARLO DEVILLANOVA UNDERLINES THE IMPORTANCE OF MONITORING HEALTH ISSUES OF IMMIGRANTS TO AVOID THE RISKS OF LEAVING THEM OUTSIDE THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM DURING THE PANDEMIC
Despite all the concerns that, apparently, the issue of immigrants also raises regarding the spread of Covid-19, quantitative data and research on the subject are very rare. The work of Carlo Devillanova, Professor of Political Economy, who has always been involved in the study of the integration of immigrants in the Italian socio-economic context, tries to remedy this. “The pandemic was an opportunity for us to evaluate new aspects,” he explains, “first of all the differences in access to health care of different nationalities and how these are explained by institutional, logistical, linguistic or administrative variables .”
The research, shared, among others, with colleague Alessia Melegaro, Professor of Demography and Social Statistics, leveraged on a rich database relating to a large Italian geographical area, included information on the number of swabs carried out, the number of positives, and the clinical outcomes on complications or recoveries. “We thus have the possibility of correlating health outcomes with different nationalities and with the average socio-economic conditions of the areas of residence. Furthermore, even if we do not have income data, we can reason on some determinants, for example the average population density or the characteristics of homes, in order to understand which variables affect the spread of the virus and which don’t.”
In this study, which is still underway, there is no way to differentiate legal and illegal immigrants, as opposed to what was done by the same Devillanova a few months ago in another study which specifically concerned illegal immigrants. “In that case, the starting database was that of NAGA, a voluntary association that provides health care to immigrants who, for example in Lombardy, do not have access to basic care,” continues Devillanova. “Theirs is the largest database in the world on irregular immigration and allowed us to have a constant flow of information on the health of these people.
From these data we were able to note first of all that during the lockdown access to the NAGA clinic significantly decreased, especially due to the intensification of checks across the territory, but that among these people there was an important number, about 16.2%, who had respiratory symptoms compatible with COVID. This element obviously represents a critical factor for public health policies, but it must not be misunderstood. In fact, the study aims to highlight the importance for the public health system of monitoring these members of the population, aiming to make them emerge and not, on the contrary, pushing them to isolate themselves and hide.”
by Emanuele Elli