Our health and theirs: forced migration, othering, and public health

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Apr;62(8):1931-42. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.08.061. Epub 2005 Oct 19.


This paper uses 'othering' theory to explore how forced migrants are received in developed countries and considers the implications of this for public health. It identifies a variety of mechanisms by which refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants are positioned as 'the other' and are defined and treated as separate, distant and disconnected from the host communities in receiving countries. The paper examines how this process has the potential to affect health outcomes both for individuals and communities and concludes that public health must engage with and challenge this othering discourse. It argues that public health practitioners have a critical role to play in reframing thinking about health services and health policies for forced migrants, by promoting inclusion and by helping shape a narrative which integrates and values the experiences of this population.

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Prejudice*
  • Public Health*
  • Refugees*