When the controversial US ‘Muslim Ban’ was signed in 2017, Muslim visits to emergency departments and appointments decreased – highlighting a connection between immigration rhetoric and healthcare access
When it comes to immigration policy, the rhetoric around a minority targeted by the change can also impact those who are already citizens in the US. Non-citizens and citizens who were harmed by the ‘Muslim ban’ are both equally important, but in this Minneapolis-based study researchers looked at how openly negative representation of a group can lead to that community fearing interactions with authorities. Even healthcare professionals.
In 2017, healthcare visits from Muslims with heritage in the countries banned from entering the US by Executive Order decreased. This included people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The decrease in healthcare access ranged from primary care appointments to emergency room trips.
This decreased notably followed an already marked increase in visits, which began in November 2016 following an election season characterised by significant anti-immigrant rhetoric.
‘Immigration policies’ impact ‘people living here in the US’
“It’s clear that U.S. immigration policies can have significant effects on the health of people living here in the U.S.,” said Dr Elizabeth Samuels, corresponding author of the study and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.
“In this case, we saw a rise in emergency department visits among people from nations targeted in the ban as well as a rise in missed appointments from people from Muslim majority countries not named in the ban. I think that that’s indicative of the kind of rippling health effects these types of policies can have.”
The authors believe that changes in healthcare access reflect elevated stress levels, due to an increasingly anti-Muslim climate in the US.