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Doctors within Borders: Networking Initiative on Mobile Populations in Contemporary Health Systems

Project: Research


This project will foster an international network of social scientists, healthcare practitioners and civil
society stakeholders to explore grassroots advocacy and healthcare interventions addressing the
needs of migrants, refugees and other mobile populations. Past decades have seen growing
numbers of health practitioners crossing international borders to care for the world’s most
disadvantaged populations. Yet most doctors do not work without, but rather within borders. They
practice medicine in domestic settings where healthcare is channeled through national systems
designed to treat settled populations. However, the 2008 financial crisis, austerity policies, conflicts
and migratory movements in the European neighbourhood have challenged healthcare systems in
the European area (WHO 2018). Without traveling overseas, practitioners increasingly care for
migrants, refugees and other mobile populations who (a) present with health problems associated
with displacement and poverty; (b) lack regular legal status and/or permanent address,
complicating access to care. We gathered preliminary evidence showing how these developments
prompted some medical practitioners to seek practical avenues for addressing the needs of mobile patients and to advocate for those groups’ human right to health. This network will develop a
research agenda in health and mobilities, aiming for a framework to understand the human, sociopolitical
and medical issues involved.

Layperson's description

Contemporary healthcare systems assume that the people for whom they provide care belong to
populations that are by and large settled. Yet, we know that people are moving, with migration and
health a challenging issue in contemporary society. How do health systems deliver care to those
who lack legal settled status or a permanent address? This project seeks to establish a research
network, bringing together experts in health and migration, non-governmental organisations, the
NHS and health professionals across Europe who deliver care to such groups. Members of the
network will explore the often dynamic and novel ways health professionals have engaged with the
mobility of their patients, frequently working outside the regular health system. This proposal is of
particular relevance today as the issue of health inequalities experienced by migrants is recognised
by the medical profession (British Medical Association).
Short titleDoctors within Borders
Effective start/end date1/10/1930/09/21


  • The Wellcome Trust

Research outputs