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Children's Health

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There are no national data on child health indicators in the migrant population such as rates of infant mortality, birth defects, adolescent pregnancy, or homicides. However, a profile of the health status of migrants children can be constructed. Migrant children receive inadequate preventive medical care, are exposed to occupational illnesses and injury, have an increased rate of infectious diseases and toxic exposures, an increased risk of family violence and mental health problems, and are subject to nutritional and educational deprivation.

Although migrant children have special health care concerns, they also benefitfrom the same basic health maintenance and anticipatory guidance as do non-migrant children. Migrant children can and should be processed through a well child visit in the same manner as any other child in the medical practice. Their special concerns center around the inherent risks of their lifestyle, which may parallel that of refugee children. It must be kept in mind by the examining physician that he/she may be the only physician to have ever reviewed this child's health status in a comprehensive visit. Well child checks constitute a window in time where this child can be reviewed and examined with the family present. It is an opportunity to positively impact the child's health. It can also establish a valuable medical home (or one of many medical homes) where the family is comfortable, the child is known, and the child's records are available.

Common problems of migrant families include parental poverty, frequent moves, low health expectations, interrupted schooling, overcrowded living conditions, and poor sanitation facilities. Migrants' children are at increased risk for respiratory and ear infections, bacterial and viral gastroenteritis, intestinal parasites, skin infections, scabies and head lice, pesticide exposure, tuberculosis, poor nutrition, anemia, short stature, undiagnosed congenital anomalies, undiagnosed delayed development, intentional and unintentional injuries, substance use, and teenage pregnancy. Immunizations and dental care are often delayed or absent. Many children have never been screened for chronic disease or vision and hearing impairment. Providing health care services for these children benefits the children, the family, the community, and the country.