Migrant health? A challenging journey
The QMA and its Student Committee were proud partners of the 3rd edition of the Symposium sur les populations vulnérables held at the Université de Montréal on May 12, 2018. Bringing together about 100 students and professionals from many health disciplines and all the faculties in Québec, this symposium aims to raise participant awareness of the biopsychosocial issues of vulnerable Québec populations. The theme this year was migrant health, with workshops and conferences focused specifically on the health issues of their migration experience and integration into their receiving country.
Headlining the event, author Kim Thúy talked about how health and food conditions had marked her migration experience, to the point that serious allergies to eggs and fish disappeared when her body was subjected to extreme survival conditions. Through her stories, sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant, Ms. Thúy made her audience aware of the delicate role played by health professionals in contact with migrants during their migration journey. Seized with emotion, she described the moment in Malaysia during her health assessment when a female doctor quickly pulled open the elastic waist of her pants to confirm her gender before letting go.
“I still have a vivid memory of the elastic pinching my skin. Such a small act, really trivial, but which took away my dignity. As a physician, a health professional, your way of treating migrants is significant. It is the little things that respect or take away an individual’s dignity,” Ms. Thúy pointed out.
Going into exile is a necessity, not a choice!
Rachel Kiddell-Monroe is a member of the Board of Directors of MSF International (Doctors Without Borders). Early in her career, she gave up job opportunities as a lawyer to devote her time to advocating for the rights of migrants and trying to improve the conditions of their migration journey. Her activities have taken her to Indonesia, Djibouti, Rwanda, Republic of Congo and many countries in Latin America. Wherever she has gone, she and her colleagues have tried to create a “safe island in the midst of a sea of atrocities” for the people who had to leave behind their countries, their roots, their traditions and their language because of violent conflict. “There is a real human cost to countries’ indifference towards migrants.” Through striking images, to help participants better understand the state of health of migrants when they arrive in Québec, she showed the harsh reality of migrants in their home country and the health issues they face.
After the conferences, six workshops were given for participants to learn more about topics such as addiction and mental health, the language barrier, the issues related to the absence of a status and medical coverage for migrants in their receiving country, and approaches to perinatal care with vulnerable mothers. In addition, the Canadian Medical Association offered the Advocacy and Leadership workshop, which allowed participants to better understand the principles of the protection of rights and how to become engaged physicians to advocate for access to health care for migrant populations.