Immigration affects the demography, economies and health of both sending and receiving nations. Researchers have long understood that immigrants typically live between worlds. In other words, as they struggle to adapt to a new society, they also sustain emotional relationships, habits and identities formed in the countries from which they came. Large shares of immigrants working in the United States send millions of dollars back to their families and loved ones in sender nations, improving the lives of individuals abroad and strengthening economies back home. Even though we know that immigrants’ health, habits and psychology are influenced by both their host and origin societies, most health research still focuses exclusively on one or the other setting. CIPMH, however, approaches research with a transnational framework, exploring the interconnectedness of places and the people shaped by them. With the population of immigrants in the United States increasingly significant, we simply cannot fully understand our own health patterns without a global perspective.
Cross-national research allows us to better understand how factors in both the sending and receiving countries affect immigrant health and the nature of their adaptation to new countries. People who study the immigrant experience know that recent generations of immigrants are far more likely than past generations to maintain a variety of connections with their countries of origin. We are interested in how this phenomenon, along with other factors such as social and economic inequalities, and the influence of monetary remittances, shapes immigrant health and the health of the immigrants’ families who remain in their countries of origin.
Cross-national research is a powerful and precise way to answer questions about the contributions of immigrants’ self-selectivity to their health. In other words, immigrants presumably make a choice to migrate. It is plausible that the factors that led them to make this choice, i.e., physical strength, strong social networks in a receiving country, self-confidence or hopefulness, might contribute to their health. CIMPH explores the influence of self-selection by comparing health outcomes among immigrants from one particular country of origin to the outcomes experienced by other important groups. The comparative groups might include immigrants’ U.S. born ethnic counterparts, or people from their country of origin who are similar in some ways but who did not migrate.
CIPMH’s view is that policies and programs and future research addressing immigrant health should incorporate the understanding that both origin and destination countries influence health. Protecting immigrant health is not only equitable but, CIPMH research indicates, it is also highly beneficial for the overall health and prosperity of both sending and receiving countries. Our hope is that our wide-ranging, cross-national research will be applied to policy, programming and practice that contribute to immigrant health and to the health and well being of our global society.