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Global Health Meeting Summary Spring 2016

Migration and Global Health Research Dialogue
Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues
May 2-3, 2016, Washington, D.C.   

On May 2-3, 2016, the Georgetown Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues hosted two days of expert discussions on critical issues at the intersection of migration and global health. Convened by Professor Jennifer Huang Bouey (Georgetown University) and Professor Cheng Feng (Tsinghua University), the meetings explored promising areas for research and policy collaboration around issues of common concern to the United States, China, and the global community. A group of 11 leading U.S. and Chinese scholars from Georgetown, Tsinghua, and other institutions, representing disciplines ranging from epidemiology and anthropology to demography and law, focused on two key research themes: pandemic preparedness and the integration and settlement of cross-national migrants and refugees. The meetings also included a workshop open to D.C.-area scholars, students, and practitioners, and a policy consultation with government officials and other stakeholders.

Developing Research Agenda and Topics

In their closed sessions, the core group developed two promising joint research themes.

Infectious Diseases and Pandemic Preparedness

The threat of future pandemics, such as Ebola, Zika, and yellow fever, and the persistence of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other crippling diseases raise a host of governance and humanitarian challenges for the United States, China, and the international community. Two important areas for further research and collaboration are the promotion of better emergency preparedness for epidemics and the development of novel public-private partnerships for vaccine development and procurement. The current outbreak of yellow fever in Angola in January 2016 and the first imported case in China could provide a timely case study to examine the response system and enhance the research collaboration among U.S. and Chinese government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and other stakeholders. The group also discussed the possibility of a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported conference on pandemic preparedness and of facilitating dialogue among the U.S. Center for Regulatory Science, China FDA, and other regional organizations on vaccine development and data-sharing regulations.

Migrant and Refugee Integration into National Primary Care Systems

In an era of increasing global mobility, floating populations (migrants and refugees) play an important, if little understood, role in the spread of pandemics and global outbreaks, such as Ebola, yellow fever, and tuberculosis, among others. They also bring challenges to local health systems, such as unfamiliar diseases, and these migrants and refugees must themselves navigate health risks that they did not encounter in their countries of origin. Promising research directions in this field include the resilience and risk factors affecting health among floating populations moving from one national context to another and the challenges faced by the host country in providing health screening, primary care, and social services. Growing African migration to China presents a useful case study, and the experience of internal rural-to-urban migration in China and refugees/migrant populations in the United States provides a valuable comparison.

Beyond these potential research themes, the group also discussed a potential tripartite partnership among U.S., Chinese, and African academic institutions to facilitate the public health capacity building in Africa.

Public Workshop

U.S. and Chinese scholars presented existing research in these and related areas. The first panel explored the intersection of health and migration across different global contexts:

  • Cheng Feng, "African Migrants in China"
  • Hao Yuantao, "Studies Among International Migrants in China and Health Care for Chinese Migrants in Africa"
  • Jennifer Huang Bouey, "Migration Patterns and Implications for Primary Health Care Provision for Mobile Populations"
  • Elizbieta Gozdziak, "Migrants and Trafficking"
  • Courtland Robinson, "Migration and Global Health"

The second panel examined links between migration and infectious diseases:

  • Zhang Linqi, "Challenges in Vaccine Development and Procurement"
  • Rebecca Katz, "Bio-surveillance and Global Health Diplomacy"
  • Mike Stoto, "Pandemic Preparedness- U.S. Experiences"
  • Daniel Lucey, "Migration and Infectious Diseases"

Policy Consultation

Michael Johnson, the incoming director for the Division of International Relations of the NIH Fogarty International Center, provided his views on the prospects for long-term institutional collaboration between the United States and China around global health and migration issues. The group was also joined by several representatives of U.S. and UN agencies, who shared their perspectives on U.S.-China collaboration on these issues and provided feedback on potential research agendas. Additional areas for exploration that were identified included China’s national and international approaches to tuberculosis prevention and treatment among migrants and the improved community participatory research on migrant health.

Next Steps

Over the coming months, the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues will constitute a formal research group to develop and pursue one or more joint projects identified during the Washington, D.C. meetings. The first meeting of the research group will take place in Beijing in fall 2016.