Keeping healthy and accessing primary and preventive health services in Glasgow: the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers from Sub Saharan Africa

Isaacs, Anna (2018) Keeping healthy and accessing primary and preventive health services in Glasgow: the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers from Sub Saharan Africa. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Background and aims:
Recent decades have seen material shifts in global migration flows. Migrants now come to the UK for an increasing number of reasons and from an increasing number of countries. This presents a challenge for health services that must provide care to individuals with a broad range of needs. In particular, there is concern that asylum seekers and refugees (ASRs) are at heightened risk of poor wellbeing and of receiving suboptimal healthcare. Concurrent with these shifts in migration, increasing attention is being paid to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which are now the most significant drivers of morbidity and mortality in most regions of the world. In the UK, the burden of NCDs is not evenly distributed, with inequalities related to ethnicity and socioeconomic status shaping an individual’s risk of ill health. Little is known, however, about how diverse migrant groups, including ASRs, conceptualise health and respond to health prevention messaging. Against this backdrop, this thesis aims to understand the health-related experiences of one such group – asylum seekers and refugees (ASRs) from Sub Saharan Africa living in Glasgow Scotland. Specifically, it explores: a) perceptions of health, wellbeing, and illness causation, b) experiences of accessing primary and preventive healthcare, and c) the factors influencing these perceptions and experiences. It also seeks to elucidate professional perspectives on ASR health.
To gain an in depth understanding of ASR health perceptions and experiences, as well as professional perspectives, a focused ethnography was undertaken. This approach utilised four qualitative methods: community engagement, participatory focus groups, semistructured interviews, and go- along interviews. In total 12 primary care and public health professionals were interviewed, and 27 ASRs took part in either a focus group, an interview, or both. The thesis took a theoretically informed approach, seeking to determine whether and how two theories – ‘candidacy’ (Dixon-Woods et al 2005) and ‘structural vulnerability’ (Quesada et al 2011) – might deepen our understanding of ASR health.
Candidacy enhanced understanding of how ASRs identified and responded to messages about ‘healthy lifestyles’. ASR participants considered keeping healthy to be an individual responsibility, with diet and exercise highlighted as especially important. At the same time, however, perceptions and experiences of health and wellbeing were shaped by a number of structural influences, which limited the capacity of ASRs to engage in health practices. Therefore, while ASRs considered health to be an individual choice in theory, they did not necessarily feel they had the ability to be healthy in practice. The theory of structural vulnerability proved useful in identifying the wider structural determinants that impacted on an individual’s capacity to respond. There were several important structural influences, including poverty, racism, discrimination, and language barriers. The greatest negative influence, however, and one that compounded all the others, was the asylum process. This diminished individuals’ capacity to identify as candidates for prevention messages, engage in preventive health practices, and/ or access care in an optimal fashion.
Efforts to engage ASRs in preventive health programmes and practices must take into account the ways in which the immigration and asylum system acts as a determinant of health, affecting both what it means to be healthy and what capacity individuals have to engage. The NHS, together with non statutory bodies, has a role to play in mitigating some of the vulnerabilities to which ASRs are subject.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Refugee, asylum seeker, healthcare, prevention, candidacy, structural vulnerability.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > General Practice and Primary Care
Funder's Name: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Supervisor's Name: O'Donnell, Professor Catherine and MacDonald, Dr. Sara and Burns, Dr. Nicola
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Anna R Isaacs
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-8971
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2018 13:39
Last Modified: 22 May 2018 09:07

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