Health Disparities


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Immigrant Health

What are the characteristics of the immigrants who might seek health care in the United States? How easy is it for even documented immigrants and naturalized U.S. citizens to access quality health care? Are undocumented immigrants a burden on the health care system? The Center’s Health Disparities Program is a leading source of quantitative analysis on the consequences of providing health care to this controversial population.

In recent years, the Health Disparities Program has contributed to a number of omnibus reports essential to understanding the broad health concerns of Health Disparities, including the annual Migration and Health report series in partnership with UC Berkeley's Health Initiative of the Americas and others.

Unique Data on Immigrant Health

The Center conducts the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS)​, the nation's largest state health survey and the only health survey to ask questions in five Asian languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog) in addition to English and Spanish.  The survey also asks about immigration status, history, parents place of birth, language proficiency and other relevant characteristics essential to understanding immigrant health.

Use of Health Services

The Program is particularly known for its examinations of immigrant use of U.S. health services and systems. Using a wide variety of data sources, Program researchers have conducted numerous investigations into the supposed burden immigrants place upon hospitals, medical clinics and emergency rooms. In reports, policy briefs and journal articles, Program staff have demonstrated the opposite is true: Immigrants, particularly the undocumented, are less likely to impose a burden on U.S. health care systems than citizens. The reasons range from immigrant’s fear of authority and lack of health insurance to the relative youth and health of some immigrant populations. For immigrants, the consequences of such aversion can be dire: By avoiding or delaying preventative care, immigrants put themselves at risk of more severe and costly long-term illnesses.

Access to Care

Immigrant access to quality health care is often impeded by a variety of linguistic, socio-economic and even environmental obstacles. Program staff conduct in-depth analysis and suggest policy solutions for problems ranging from the challenges of enrolling immigrants in health care reform to the language barriers that exist between immigrants and medical professionals.For information on a new (2017) study on how policies impact immigrant access to care see: ​Research on Immigrant Health Through State Policy (RIGHTS).