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Is there evidence of the "immigrant health paradox" among Arab Americans?

First-generation immigrants in the United States from Latin America, South America and Asia have been shown to have better health outcomes and behaviors than the second-generation (US-born immigrant parents) and the third-generation (US-born and US-born) parents with immigrant heritage) immigrants – a phenomenon known as the "immigrant health paradox". But in a study led by Boston College Connell Assistant Nursing Professor Nadia Abuelezam, there was little evidence of a health paradox among immigrants from Arab-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Abuelezam and researchers Abdul M. El-Sayed of the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor and Sandro Galea of ​​the Boston University School of Public Health used data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to study health behaviors and health outcomes in three generations of American Arab immigrants. The researchers were able to isolate a total of 1,425 individuals with Arabic heritage or Arabic language use, with 923 representing first generation Arab immigrants, 413 representing second generation and 89 in third or fourth generation.

Health behaviors examined included influenza vaccination rates, smoking history, alcohol and soda consumption, suicidal thoughts, and number of sexual partners. Health outcomes studied included diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity.

"We found little evidence of the health paradox of immigrants among immigrants from Arab-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa living in California," said Abuelezam, lead author of the study, published in the journal. American Journal of Public Health. "Contrary to the survey of Asian and Latino immigrants in the United States, we found that first-generation Arab immigrants had a poor health profile compared to second or third generation Arab immigrants."

In Abuelezam's analysis, the chances of developing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease did not differ between generations of immigrants to American Arabs. Researchers saw high-risk behaviors such as excessive alcohol and alcohol consumption becoming more prevalent for second-generation immigrants compared to first-generation immigrants, suggesting that acculturation is taking place for these Arab immigrants, despite strict cultural prohibition. and religious in some Arab communities. In addition, the risk of obesity increased with each subsequent generation of immigrants.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to understand the differences in behavior and health risks among different generations of Arab immigrants in the United States," said Abuelezam, an epidemiologist.

According to Abuelezam, little is known about the health of Arab immigrants in the United States, largely due to the inability to identify this group using standard racial surveys. Arab-speaking Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) immigrants are considered "white" by governmental racial categories, making them indistinguishable from other white residents in large surveys and databases.

"Our analysis points to the need to intentionally collect ethnic and racial data on Arab immigrants in order to better understand their health," said Abuelezam.

She suggested that this group of immigrants may be especially vulnerable because Arab or American Arabs often come from tumultuous and violent conditions in their home countries and face stigma and discrimination in the US due to media portraits after 9/11.

"Our analysis shows that Arab Americans are a unique subgroup of the general US immigrant population," she said, "and that more studies will be needed to better understand the health needs and dynamics that shape this growing minority population."

Epidemiologists Call for More Visibility to American Arabs and Their Health Problems

More information:
Nadia N. Abuelezam et al., "Relevance of the" Immigrant Health Paradox "to the Health of American Arabs in California, American Journal of Public Health (2019). DOI: 10.2105 / AJPH.2019.305308

Provided by
Boston College

Is there evidence of "immigrant health paradox" among Arab Americans? (2019, October 18)
consulted on October 18, 2019

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