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The immigration crisis: An opportunity to improve parent-child care services in Europe

Even during the Covid-19 emergency, Europe is continuously facing an immigration crisis that is bringing more than five million children to the northern shore of the Mediterranean sea.

The World Health Organization has underlined the critical importance of improving maternal and child health in order to decrease inequality and poverty among the most vulnerable parts of the population. Compared to native-born mothers, immigrants from outside Europe have been reported to present with higher rates of intrauterine growth restriction, preterm delivery and congenital malformations. Cerebral palsy is also known to be more prevalent among ethnic minorities. Although these issues are often exacerbated by less than optimal socioeconomic conditions, they are also affected by less than adequate policies, which result in a lack of appropriate family and social support and limitations in accessing local information in the new country.

Dealing with these families implies engaging in new challenges for healthcare systems and, in particular, for mother-child units in clinical and rehabilitation centers. The lack of a common language is just the most obvious obstacle to effective and trustful relationships in parent-child care services. In this recent paper published in Acta Paediatrica, I highlight specific actions that are necessary to promote a culturally sensitive parent-child care in European countries.

First, the inclusion of qualified interpreters in the healthcare team as stable partners. Second, promoting curiosity about the cultural values of child, care and parenting in families from other countries and continents. Third, providing facilitated access to healthcare services. Fourth, educating the next generation of clinicians and healthcare professionals to develop a culturally sensitive state of mind.

European healthcare systems need to provide successful responses to the clinical and rehabilitation needs of these families through appropriate policy and regulatory acts. This will improve their capacity to provide inclusive, equal and high-standard evidence-based care for entire multi-ethnic Western societies.


Full citation: Provenzi L (2020) The burden of Europe's immigration crisis on mother-child healthcare services and opportunities for culturally sensitive family-centred care. Acta Paediatrica, doi: 10.1111/apa.15316

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