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Exploring gender-specific determinants and contexts of migrant health from an integrated Global Health perspective

Germany is an immigration country. However, the United Nations have recently expressed serious concerns on the implementation of the right to health for non-nationals. Multiple access barriers and exclusion mechanisms do exist, including administrative, social, cultural and structural factors, with the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbating vulnerabilities and societal inequity of migrants. Evidence on different migrant groups' health needs, gender differences, dynamics of intersectional inequalities and how they develop over time in Germany is still scarce. At the same time, migration is directly linked with globalization, and migrant health cannot be fully understood without expanding perspectives across host countries´ borders.

 Our exploration project tackles the intertwining of health, migration and gender. We thereby channel three topoi of fundamental societal relevance and high potential impact on improved individual health and intersectional equality. Beyond the German project setting, we link our research with contexts and solutions from partner institutions in potential countries of origin in sub-Saharan Africa, an approach that has been long called for in the postcolonial reflection of migration and health.

Our project inherently fuses perspectives from Social Sciences, Global Health, Medicine, Gender and Cultural Studies. Research goals include the assessment of physical and mental health indicators among different migrant populations based on a high-quality research infrastructure, the German Socioeconomic Panel. We will also assess vaccination status and cancer screening utilization and distinguish between different factors affecting participation in vaccination and cancer testing in Berlin-based cohorts by conducting a quantitative survey with an experimental design. We will transfer an innovative cancer screening strategy piloted in Sub-Saharan Africa to German migrant women and evaluate feasibility of the approach in both settings.

Another goal is to assess sexual health needs in migrant LGBTQI populations, in the context of unwanted pregnancy in migrant women, and in women affected by female genital mutilation (FGM). Here, we will compare the German migrant setting with a partner setting in Sierra Leone, by taking into consideration both global isomorphism and local processes, as well as at times contradictory positions of local actors, to explore how international norms may or may not influence individual behaviour. An innovative mixed methods approach will be used to gain both broad and in-depth insights throughout.

The core of this project is our strong transdisciplinary concept. Non-academic partners from civil society (e.g., Terre des Femmes), government (e.g., District Health Department Berlin-Neukölln), and international partners (e.g., Maternity Clinic, Sierra Leone) play a constitutional role in research design and knowledge generation. We will trigger multidirectional learning processes between science and society and reintegrate novel insights on migrant health into societal practice. Institutionally, we will establish a research hub for migrant health, paving the way for future discourse, cooperation, and innovation in thinking and action.