Principal Investigators: Diana Bowser and Donald Shepard (Brandeis University, Heller School for Social Policy and Management)
How can local health services overcome disparities between Venezuelan migrants and Colombian nationals in access to essential healthcare services?
The research aimed to:
Using administrative data from 60 municipalities across Colombia for 2019 and 2020, the study compared the rates of COVID-19 cases, deaths and health service use (hospitalisations and consultations) of Colombian nationals and Venezuelan migrants, before and after implementation of the COVID-19 public health policies. Telephone surveys of 5,159 migrants and 2,971 Colombian nationals provided empirical data at the municipal level on the lived experiences of migrants, including compliance to the COVID19 measures and healthcare costs, and comparable data on Colombians.
The study focused on social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene, measuring how well those protocols were followed during different types of services and with different refugee populations. Barriers such as lack of physical space, lack of knowledge about COVID-19, limitations of the services, and attitudes about COVID-19 were measured.
"It is imperative, during this time, that we understand how individuals are responding to the public health and social distancing measures being put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Examining these patterns across diverse and vulnerable populations is key. Support from Elrha for this project to understand the differential impact of COVID-19 on Venezuelan migrant refugee will allow a better understanding of this and future pandemics."
"Colombia’s system of universal health insurance generates an invaluable data base (called RIPS). It provides a unique opportunity to monitor the impact of social distancing and other policies across Colombia and to ascertain how results compare between Colombian and Venezuelan migrant residents."
While the Colombian government has made initial strides towards reducing disparities between Colombians and Venezuelan migrants with their expansion of the temporary residence programme, the study team recommended additional policies to improve access and address the COVID-19 pandemic:
This responsive project was integrated with a larger multi-country research effort led by the World Bank. As part of this engagement, the study team built an integrated COVID-19 consortium network, integrating and harmonising data across municipalities. The consortium’s monthly meetings with diverse representation, such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, proved to be valuable for engaging stakeholders and communicating and disseminating study findings.
Following these engagement activities, the study team was invited by the Colombian Ministry of Health to support roll-out of their ‘national health and migration observatory’, created to prioritise decision-making for migration populations in public health policy design, improving the security, dignity and human rights of all migrants. Data from this study was used to directly inform COVID-19 vaccine roll-out specifically for Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, and it will continue to be used to inform national policy and planning, including mitigating the impact of future outbreaks among migrant populations.
This study was selected by the R2HC for our Impact Case Study series. The case study is now available to view online.View
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