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Connecting the Dots: Cultivating a Sustainable Interdisciplinary Discourse Around Migration, Urbanisation, and Health in Southern Africa (lay summary)

This is a lay summary of the article published under the DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-77685-9_2

Published onApr 30, 2023
Connecting the Dots: Cultivating a Sustainable Interdisciplinary Discourse Around Migration, Urbanisation, and Health in Southern Africa (lay summary)

Fear, poverty prevents healthcare for immigrants in South Africa

Researchers highlighted the main findings from a workshop to discuss urbanisation, migration and the impact on the health of immigrants. They said more research cooperation between experts in different fields is needed to inform policies that could help immigrants access better healthcare.

Migration happens when people move to a new place to live. South Africa has many immigrants from other countries, and the poor  healthcare services that they receive is alarming. 

In this paper, authors summarised the findings of a workshop that focused on migration and urbanisation, and the link to health in South Africa. 

The main themes that were discussed in the workshop were access, experiences and governance. 

They referred to access as positive health and healthcare services. They found that migrants have some difficulty accessing healthcare because of fear, lack of appropriate documents, language differences and discrimination. 

They said that migrants have bad experiences in urban areas because people don’t treat them well, which can lead to mental health problems. They may have no job, unstable home situations, depression and stress because of poverty or fear of deportation. 

They also addressed the role of government in public healthcare, and how migrants are seen as a threat by healthcare professionals and the general population. 

They noted that there are some problems with research in urbanisation, migration and healthcare of immigrants. For example, it is difficult for research to inform policies and practices, and researchers in these fields use different terminology and jargon so it can be hard to communicate.

In the workshop, the general feeling was that these social challenges need researchers from different fields to work together. Some programmes already include student training for social and health studies. 

The authors said the workshop helped researchers connect to one another by encouraging open discussions. But collaborative research needs a lot of time and effort from all the researchers involved. More things can be done, like student and staff exchange programmes and mentoring, to help encourage research in urbanisation, migration and health across fields. 

This report highlights the need for researchers from social fields to come together and inform policies and regulations to ensure positive health responses to migrants in Africa. 


Migration and urbanisation attract much interest globally, reflecting growing concerns associated with the management of urban growth (UN-Habitat 2016) and, increasingly, around the ways in which these social and demographic processes are associated with health and wellbeing (Galea and Vladhov 2005; Grant et al. 2017; Nauman et al. 2016). Recognising that there are complex – but poorly understood – linkages between migration, urbanisation and health globally, the key elements of an emerging research agenda have recently begun to be mapped out (Grant et al. 2017; IOM 2016; Hanefeld et al. 2017). However – with few notable exceptions (Oni et al. 2016) – these agendas tend to focus on ways in which migration or urbanisation is associated with health, and are insufficiently Africa-oriented. In an attempt to contribute to addressing this gap, we use this chapter to reflect on our experiences in supporting early-career scholars to further the research agenda associated with migration, urbanisation and health in Southern African Development Community (SADC).


This summary is a free resource intended to make African research and research that affects Africa, more accessible to non-expert global audiences. It was compiled by ScienceLink's team of professional African science communicators as part of the Masakhane MT: Decolonise Science project. ScienceLink has taken every precaution possible during the writing, editing, and fact-checking process to ensure that this summary is easy to read and understand, while accurately reporting on the facts presented in the original research paper. Note, however, that this summary has not been fact-checked or approved by the authors of the original research paper, so this summary should be used as a secondary resource. Therefore, before using, citing or republishing this summary, please verify the information presented with the original authors of the research paper, or email [email protected] for more information.

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