Skip to main content

New Award: Community-Led Research Will Break Barriers to Care for Migrants and Asylum Seekers with Health Needs

New Award: Community-Led Research Will Break Barriers to Care for Migrants and Asylum Seekers with Health Needs

Most migrants and asylum seekers who arrive at the US-Mexico border are healthy. But some – like Anita*, a five-year-old with spina bifida, or Rocio, 35 weeks pregnant, who had undiagnosed preeclampsia – need urgent medical assistance. At the border, they may find assistance through a community-based organization working in isolation, relying on volunteers. But more often, their medical needs remain unattended to.

Migrant Clinicians Network, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, is thrilled to announce a $5 million award over the next five years to fund Humanitarian Health Care Network: Bringing the Most Vulnerable to Care, a community-engaged research project that will develop and coordinate a system to connect pregnant people with prenatal care at their destination, and link children with complex medical needs with the specialty care they need. This first-of-its-kind award, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS), will enable MCN to pursue much-needed community-driven research to study and address the underlying structural factors that prevent migrants and asylum seekers from accessing care.

“It is so gratifying after struggling for years to meet the needs of immigrants with acute medical care coordination, to have the NIH ComPASS team join forces with us to find solutions,” noted Deliana Garcia, MCN’s Chief Program Officer of International and Emerging Issues.

This community-led research program will build on MCN’s three-decade growth of Health Network, MCN’s virtual case management system, as well as allowing for an understanding of the comprehensive systems at play in providing health care to immigrants.

Newly arrived asylum seekers often encounter barrier after barrier to accessing care – cost, Limited English Proficiency, cultural differences, transportation, fear of or confusion over immigration status – in addition to limited or no familiarity with the complex US medical system that makes accessing timely medical care extraordinarily difficult. With lives dominated by other pressing needs such as establishing a home, finding a job, or enrolling in school, establishing care is a challenge. Comprehensive data is limited on community health outcomes; however, considerable health inequities are reported anecdotally.

“Newly arrived immigrants, especially those with complex health needs, face considerable health inequities and barriers to accessing care,” added Eric Russell, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine & Texas Children’s Hospital, the research partner in this project. “We are grateful to have our efforts supported as we seek to connect this vulnerable group to highly needed medical care. With this funding, we will also improve our understanding of the obstacles they face as well as their resilience in attempting to overcome those challenges.”

MCN’s award # 1OT2OD035845-01 is provided by the NIH Common Fund.