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Migration and its effect on mortality rates

Dr. Karima Chaabna's research found that immigration skews the death rates in Qatar.
Dr. Karima Chaabna's research found that immigration skews the death rates in Qatar.

New research showing how death rates among the population are skewed by the effects of migration could have implications for health policy in the region.

Researchers at the Institute for Population Health, which is part WCM-Q, demonstrated that high immigration of young healthy adults reduces the mortality rates. This means that further research may be necessary to ascertain the true effectiveness of current health programs and health policies.

Dr. Karima Chaabna, the report’s lead author and a population health and communication specialist at WCM-Q, explained that the work was conducted after she saw in the Global Burden of Disease Study – the most comprehensive research to date into worldwide mortality at international, national and regional levels – that mortality rates in Gulf countries were falling. Dr. Chaabna questioned why this was, and whether better healthcare was the only answer.

She said: “More than 80 per cent of Qatar’s population are migrants. Using statistical analysis, we looked at the association between the variation in Qatar’s population size and death rates and found that there was a significant association.

“Essentially, the overall mortality rates have been reducing because migration has been increasing. The majority of migrants are physically fit, male, blue collar workers who are also screened for conditions like tuberculosis, hepatitis and HIV.

“Their good health essentially improves the average for the country, and reduces the death rates.”

Dr. Chaabna said that further research would have to be conducted with individual groups – for example Qatari nationals or long-term residents of other nationalities – to ascertain and better understand the efficacy of various healthcare and outcomes.

Dr. Sohaila Cheema, director of the Institute for Population Health and co-author of the paper, explained: “The research does not negate the fact that Qatar has made huge strides forward in improving mortality rates and general healthcare.

“WCM-Q is at the forefront of helping the country in moving forward with its public health agenda.”

Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, senior associate dean for population health, capacity building and student affairs at WCM-Q and co-author of the research, said: “No matter where you are in the world, healthcare remains an evolving process. There is always room for improvement but Qatar has advanced rapidly. Life expectancy, for example, is now at around 79 to 80 years and the government is making every effort to reduce injury and premature death; a case in point is injuries from motor vehicle crashes. Qatar has done phenomenally well with policies and interventions that have reduced the number of road traffic fatalities. Use of speed cameras, improving triage, availability of good quality emergency and trauma care, traffic laws and their enforcement, and police vigilance have all contributed to this improved situation and declining deaths. Improvements have been also noted in other areas of non-communicable diseases. But we need to do more.

“I can honestly say that healthcare is improving in all sectors and is helping to achieve the goals and objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030.”