By Dennis Archambault
The immigrant experience in America has never been comfortable. However, a recent analysis of current immigrants from Latino and Muslim backgrounds has shown high, persistent toxic stress, causing health providers to project long-term consequences. As we learn more about the correlation between oppressive stress and health, we’re challenged to identify solutions.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has published an issue brief on the topic, “Living in an Immigrant Family in America: How Feear and Toxic Stress are Affecting Daily Life, Well-being, & Health. (https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/living-in-an-immigrant-family-in-america-how-fear-and-toxic-stress-are-affecting-daily-life-well-being-health/?utm_campaign=KFF-2017-December-Immigrant-Families-Lawfully-Undocumented&utm_medium=email&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8xI-zjSyEnYAmzKe6jnP2CY_kFRn5345TQyL7bITQBtN1Fq5lSNAqyaVfwortyfzUUKjYRE2DWRV-8hLhc1s3dHMU2eg&_hsmi=59313422&utm_content=59313422&utm_source=hs_email&hsCtaTracking=1196ea7e-a1b6-40eb-a050-e5c7a95a7e6b%7C97ced1cb-5293-47c5-b9f0-10dca70ce629) As one pediatrician noted in the document, “When you’re worried every day that your parents are going to be taken away or that your family will be split up, that really is a form of toxic stress…we know that it’s going to have long-term implications for heart disease, for health outcomes for these children in adulthood.”
As this issue gains greater exposure, mental health, public health, and integrated primary care providers will become more engaged in solutions. The problem is, most solutions require some funding. Whether it’s increasing access to community mental health services or community organizing around resilience, population health comes at a cost. Unfortunately, we’re more concerned about limiting access for immigrants, than creating a healthy environment for those who are here.
Immigrants have always helped define the future of America. If the current wave of immigrants is crippled by untreated toxic stress, the cost to society will be much greater than addressing issues today.
Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health. Authority Health will be hosting a population health forum on toxic stress and resilience in April 2018.