July 12, 2022

The Philippine Migrant Health Network through the Department of Health (DOH)’s Bureau of International Health Cooperation (BIHC)-Migrant Health Unit has successfully conducted the 3rd National Symposium on Migration Health Research (NSMHR), first time in a virtual format, with the theme “Advancing Migration Health Research during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond”. The event was a 2-part webinar series held on June 9-10, 2022, with over 300 participants registered online. This biennial Conference was participated by experts involved in the field of migration, health and research coming from various government, academe, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations as well as overseas Filipinos and migrants themselves.

The objectives of the symposium are: (1) to present relevant migration health research during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) to identify gaps in migration health research during the COVID-19 pandemic and to propose actions to help address these; and (3) to explore opportunities and suggest ways forward to advance migration health research beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was formally opened by a message from the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW)’s representative Mr. Lance Velasco, on behalf of Ms. Carmelita G. Nuqui, the President of the PMRW and Vice Chair of the PMHN. The welcome speech was delivered by none other than Undersecretary Leopoldo J. Vega of the Department of Health.

Day 1 commenced with an opening plenary panel discussion, where five prolific experts in the field of migration health research enriched our knowledge on the landscape of migrant health studies before and during the COVID 19 pandemic. Evidently, there were challenges met, resistance and difficulties but there were also opportunities presented most importantly, the amplification of the call to mainstream health in migrants – related discussions and academic publications.

After the opening plenary discussion, the symposium proceeded to the Paper Presentation where six outstanding scholars shared their research work on various migrant health issues subdivided into three Sessions. Session 1 explored researches on migrant health access to care and social protection, both for documented and undocumented migrants during the pandemic; Session 2 discussed themes on mental health situation of OFWs and a case study of the OFW families in the midst of COVID 19 and the 3rd Session talked about the impact of COVID 19 in the return and reintegration of OFWs. Session 2 and 3 were the focus of discussions during the day 2 of the webinar.

Indeed, all the presented evidence points to migration as a major determinant of health. Displacement and legal status expose people to vulnerability, deprivation, discrimination, violence, abuse, and extortion, and limit their access to healthcare, thus affecting both immediate and lifelong health outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing conditions of vulnerability and social exclusion of marginalized populations, including migrants, especially unauthorized/undocumented migrants. Thus, they experience a disproportionately higher pandemic burden.

As a starting point for a larger and longer discussion, the hope of this symposium represents an opportunity for the scientific community to come together and discuss evidence with the current scientific enterprise. Undoubtedly, this has produced a wealth of knowledge and an abundance of suggested solutions pertaining to migrant health.

The event ended with a symposium synthesis from Dr. Joel Buenaventura, Division Chief, Bureau of International Health Cooperation, Department of Health followed by a closing message from Dir. Maria Soledad Q. Antonio Chair, Philippine Migrant Health Network and Director IV, Bureau of International Health Cooperation, Department of Health.