Impact of the 2016 Election on the Health of Immigrant Families in Southeast Michigan

man sitting behind fence concerned

New Research from Paul Fleming

Due to increased vigilance and fear of family separation through deportation or detention since the 2016 presidential election, immigrant families have changed their behaviors in ways that may negatively impact their health, according to research from the University of Michigan.

Researchers conducted 28 in-depth interviews with staff at two Federally Qualified Health Centers and a nonprofit agency in Southeast Michigan who had intimate knowledge of and insights into the lived experiences of the mixed-status immigrant families they serve. 

"We knew immigrants may be hesitant to travel to the clinic in this new environment, but we didn’t fully realize how this fear impacted health in a wide range of ways."

The researchers found that fear of deportation and family separation negatively impacted community cohesion, healthcare utilization and health-related behaviors. For example, some immigrant clients were not going to clinic appointments, avoiding visiting the grocery store, and not enrolling in social service programs. 

“We knew immigrants may be hesitant to travel to the clinic in this new environment, but we didn’t fully realize how this fear impacted health in a wide range of ways,” said study author Dr. Paul Fleming, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “It was surprising to hear the many ways this fear could impact these families. For example, people would avoid the grocery store even if they ran out of food, so this fear is causing food insecurity for immigrant families. Or families were avoiding having picnics or playing sports at parks or attending birthday parties—in other words, avoiding recreation and building social support, things known to be good for health.”

Now, Dr. Fleming and his collaborators are pursuing a project to better understand how clinics and social service agencies can best respond and help clients navigate the current climate.

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