Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Immigration, culture, effect of, Effect of Immigrants on U.S. Health Care

The United States has experienced the greatest surge in immigration since the early 20th century, with one in five residents now a recent immigrant, or a close relative of one.

New York Times, “Remade in America: The Newest Immigrants and Their Impact, “ part of five part series, March-April, 2009,

The March 29 New York Times carries an article, “Foreign Ways and the Scars of War Test a Clinic in Minneapolis." The piece describes a clinic devoted to newly arrived immigrants at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

The medical center is a 446 bed public hospital, renowned for its trauma center, its training programs, and its renal dialysis outreach programs. It has a tradition of turning no one way, and not asking about insurance status. Because of waves of new immigrants (an estimated 50,000 from Somalia alone, even more from Mexico, and a mix of other countries), the medical center spends $3 million a year on interpreters fluent in 50 languages, and $100 million of its $500 million budget on 20% of its patients born in other countries.

The article hit home because I spend 25 years practicing in a private hospital across the street from the Hennepin Country Hospital. I have great respect for the hospital, which exemplifies the social mission and generosity of the people of Hennepin County and Minnesota.

Newly arrived immigrants quickly acquire many U.S. health habits and many develop health problems common to Americans. For example, immigrants in the U.S. more than 5 years, compared to all U.S adults, are more likely to be obese( Hispanics, 44% vs. 32%), more likely to become diabetic ( Blacks and Hispanics, 10% and 8% vs. 7%), moe likely to become hypertensive (Blacks, Asians, and Hispancies 28%, 32%, and 35% vs 27%). Furthermore, immigrants’ longevity rates are shorter and infant mortality rates are higher, skewing our health statistics and adding to financial burdens because of the high rates of the uninsured among immigrants.

We should be proud America has become such a magnet for immigrants, but immigration. legal and illegal, has an economic downside because of multicultural differences and socioeconomic difficulties. For the U.S. being a melting pot can cause of meltdown of our health system’s statistics and finances.


One of five of us is now an immigrant or close relation,

of some other person recently arrived from another nation.

On the whole, it’s a good thing they choose here to reside.

But unfortunately having too many immigrants has a downside,

Immigrants strain our health system’s fiscal foundation.

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