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Integrating social epidemiology into immigrant health research: A cross-national framework


  • Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores
  • Sanchez-Vaznaugh, Emma V.
  • Viruell-Fuentes, Edna A.
  • Almeida, Joanna


Scholarship on immigrant health has steadily increased over the past two decades. This line of inquiry is often approached as a “specialty” topic involving a discrete de-contextualized population, rather than a topic that is central for understanding patterns of population health within and between sending and receiving countries. Frequently immigrant health research employs theoretical frameworks (e.g., acculturation) that emphasize cultural explanations, while less commonly utilized is the “social determinants of health” framework, which emphasizes social and structural explanations. Drawing upon literature in the fields of economics, sociology of immigration, and social epidemiology, we present a conceptual framework for understanding immigrant health from a cross-national perspective. We discuss the theoretical foundations of this framework; the methodological challenges for undertaking research on immigration and health using this framework; examples of emerging research in this area; and directions for future research. Progress in immigrant health research and population health improvements can be achieved through an enhanced understanding of population health patterns in sending and receiving societies. Immigrant health research needs to be better integrated into social epidemiology. Concurrently, immigrant health research offers conceptual, empirical, and analytic opportunities to advance social epidemiological research. Together, scholarship in immigrant health and social epidemiology can make significant contributions toward one of their mutual and ultimate goals: to improve knowledge about population health.

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  • Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores & Sanchez-Vaznaugh, Emma V. & Viruell-Fuentes, Edna A. & Almeida, Joanna, 2012. "Integrating social epidemiology into immigrant health research: A cross-national framework," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2060-2068.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:12:p:2060-2068 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.04.040

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sanchez-Vaznaugh, Emma V. & Kawachi, Ichiro & Subramanian, S.V. & Sánchez, Brisa N. & Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores, 2008. "Differential effect of birthplace and length of residence on body mass index (BMI) by education, gender and race/ethnicity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(8), pages 1300-1310, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Allen, Jennifer Dacey & Caspi, Caitlin & Yang, May & Leyva, Bryan & Stoddard, Anne M. & Tamers, Sara & Tucker-Seeley, Reginald D. & Sorensen, Glorian C., 2014. "Pathways between acculturation and health behaviors among residents of low-income housing: The mediating role of social and contextual factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 26-36.
    2. Ramraj, Chantel & Pulver, Ariel & Siddiqi, Arjumand, 2015. "Intergenerational transmission of the healthy immigrant effect (HIE) through birth weight: A systematic review and meta-analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 29-40.
    3. Amoyaw, Jonathan Anim & Abada, Teresa, 2016. "Does helping them benefit me? Examining the emotional cost and benefit of immigrants' pecuniary remittance behaviour in Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 182-192.
    4. Jonathan Zufferey, 2016. "Investigating the migrant mortality advantage at the intersections of social stratification in Switzerland," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 34(32), pages 899-926, June.
    5. Ro, Annie & Bostean, Georgiana, 2015. "Duration of U.S. stay and body mass index among Latino and Asian immigrants: A test of theoretical pathways," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 39-47.
    6. Arévalo, Sandra P. & Tucker, Katherine L. & Falcón, Luis M., 2015. "Beyond cultural factors to understand immigrant mental health: Neighborhood ethnic density and the moderating role of pre-migration and post-migration factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 91-100.
    7. Torres, Jacqueline M. & Lee, Anne & González, Hector M. & Garcia, Lorena & Haan, Mary N., 2016. "A longitudinal analysis of cross-border ties and depression for Latino adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 111-119.
    8. repec:eee:socmed:v:194:y:2017:i:c:p:135-141 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Sabo, Samantha & Shaw, Susan & Ingram, Maia & Teufel-Shone, Nicolette & Carvajal, Scott & de Zapien, Jill Guernsey & Rosales, Cecilia & Redondo, Flor & Garcia, Gina & Rubio-Goldsmith, Raquel, 2014. "Everyday violence, structural racism and mistreatment at the US–Mexico border," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 66-74.


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