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Side event to the Global Conference on Primary Health Care, Astana, Kazakhstan

 Primary health care for the health of migrants – the economic argument

25 October 2018, 12:45 – 13:45

Independence Palace, Astana, Kazakhstan, 1st floor, Room 3


Co-organized by IOM Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, WHO Regional Office for Europe and the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan



Access of refugees and migrants to health services is often framed within a human rights’ discourse. The right to the highest sustainable standard of health is recognised in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and in other international treaties and conventions. The importance of health and well-being are also shown by the central place they hold within the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) – SDG Goal 3, Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. When it comes to refugees and migrants, two pivotal documents are the World Health Assembly Resolutions 61.17 and 70.15, which urge the Member States to consider promoting the framework of priorities and guiding principles to promote the health of refugees and migrants. A WHO global action plan to promote the health of refugees and migrants is currently being developed in consultation with the countries. Governments in many regions have acknowledged the need to address the health needs and vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants to enhance health equity and security. Excluding migrants from health provisions not only results in health risks for the individual, and violations of migrants’ rights, but also poses risks for the broader attainment of public health objectives.

Fewer approaches put the discussion into the social and an economic perspective. Therefore, this event aims at sharing studies and country experiences that addressed the socioeconomic aspect of improving access of migrants to health care, regardless of their migration status, be it for legislative or practical reasons. The main argument is saving costs for health systems, through the migrant-inclusive delivery of preventive and basic health services for the benefit of the community. It is not just about the lowest costs through primary health care, but the economic optimisation model based on cost-effectiveness – maximum social and health outcomes. Therefore, this event looks at Primary Health Care as the minimum package of health care services that should be made available for all refugees and migrants. As will be shown, this economic optimisation model is not contradictory to a rights-based approach, but both perspectives will be integrated into the discussion.


Opening remarks

  • Ms Jacqueline Weekers, Director of the Migration Health Division, IOM
  • Dr Santino Severoni, Coordinator, Migration and Health programme, WHO Regional Office for Europe
  • Mr Alexander Tsoy, Vice Minister, Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Expert speakers

  • Dr Ursula Trummer, Center for Health and Migration, Austria
  • Dr Kai Hong Phua, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore

Country contributions

  • Mr Stamatis Vardaros, Secretary General for Primary Health Care, Ministry of Health of Greece
  • Bekir Keskinkılıç, Deputy General Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health of Turkey
  • Dr Panuwat Pankate, Dept. of Health Service Support, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand

Closing statement by the organizers

Moderator: Dr Jaime Calderon, Regional Migration Health Adviser, IOM Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia


Expert speakers

Dr Ursula TRUMMER (PhD Sociology, MA Socioeconomic Sciences, MSc Organisational Development) is Head of the Center for Health and Migration in Vienna. She has been working on health and migration since 2000, when she coordinated the “Migrant Friendly Hospital” Initiative on service and quality development for European Hospitals. She held responsible for design and implementation of a database on models of good practice for health care for undocumented migrants in the EU. She was European principle investigator in the Asia-Europe Study on Social and Economic costs of excluding vulnerable migrant groups from health care (ASEF 2014) and the thematic study on cost analysis of health care provisions to migrants and ethnic minorities” (2016) as part of the EQUI-Health project conducted by IOM and co-funded by DG Sanco. She is a national delegate to several COST Actions (Health and Migration, Ageing Societies, Intergenerational Family Solidarity) and Member of the Management Committee of the Migration Health and Development Research Initiative (MHADRI) Global Network.


Dr Kai Hong PHUA is a Visiting Professor to the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy, as an adjunct faculty at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, and was previously Associate Professor and Head of Health Services Research at the Department of Community, Occupational & Family Medicine and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, Singapore. He graduated from the Harvard School of Public Health in Health Services Administration and Population Sciences, and the London School of Economics & Political Science (PhD on the development of health services in Malaysia and Singapore). Dr Phua is currently serving on the WHO Expert Committee on Economics of Health Ageing, Geneva, and Fees Benchmark Committee, Ministry of Health, Singapore. He has conducted numerous executive education and training programmes throughout the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East on healthcare reforms, financing and health systems management.


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