Intended for healthcare professionals


Providing preventive care to migrants saves money, study finds

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 07 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4806
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

Providing migrants with access to preventive treatment rather than waiting until they need emergency care would generate cost savings, a study has found.

As the question of how many migrants Europe can take reaches the top of the political agenda, researchers at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights looked at the costs of providing antenatal care and hypertensive care to irregular migrants—that is, those who do not have full legal status—in Germany, Greece, and Sweden.1

Researchers used data on the prevalence of hypertension among the migrant populations in the three countries and looked at the costs of providing regular and emergency treatment to all of the migrants who needed it.

They found that providing regular healthcare to irregular migrants with hypertension could generate savings of approximately 9% over a year, rising to 13% over five years, compared with emergency care. It could also help prevent more than 300 strokes and more than 200 heart attacks per 1000 migrants in each country over their lifetime.

The study found that over a year Germany would spend €822 504 (£603 981; $916 393) per 1000 migrants on regular treatment for hypertension, compared with €905 221 on emergency treatment for stroke and myocardial infarction, generating a cost saving of €82 717. Greece would save €66 091 over the same period and Sweden €83 852. Lifetime savings would be €2.2m in Germany, €1.8m in Greece, and €2.3m in Sweden.

Researchers also looked at the costs of providing prenatal care to migrant women compared with the costs of treating low birth weight, one of the consequences of poor or lacking antenatal care.

The cost of prenatal care per woman in 2013 was €976 in Germany, €796 in Greece, and €444 in Sweden. The cost of treating low birth weight per child in the same year was €22 451 in Germany, €18 199 in Greece, and €33 652 in Sweden.

The study estimated that if all migrant women received adequate prenatal care four cases of low birth weight could be avoided a year per 1000 population in Germany, five cases would be avoided in Greece, and six in Sweden.

The researchers concluded, “Even when using a simple model to estimate costs, the implications are clear: treating a condition only when it becomes an emergency not only endangers the health of a patient but also results in a greater economic burden to healthcare systems.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4806


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