Intersectionality applied to migrants’ and refugees’ health

Andreea Brabete et Bilkis Vissandjee

Intersectionality takes into account the concurrent analyses of multiple, intersecting (and interacting) social identity categories (Denis, 2008). Since the intersectionality emerged as a theory in feminist studies, there is a growing literature on the topic. Despite the increasing uptake of intersectionality in the study of health inequities given the social complex ways in which the social determinants of health relate, intersect and mutually reinforce one another (Hankivsky & Christoffersen, 2008), intersectionality applied to migrants’ and refugees’ health remains rare due to possible methodological challenges related to this approach. To address this void in the literature, this paper examines how intersectionality is applied to migrants’ and refugees’ health since these populations face numerous health inequities. Databases and search engines such as PubMed, CINAHL, ProQuest, PsycInfo, EMBASE and Web of Science were used. Search terms and keywords were “intersectionality”, “intersection”, “intersec*”, “health*”, “migra*”, “immigra*”, “refugee”, and “asylum seeker”. Since prior to 2000, intersectionality was rarely used outside women’s studies scholarship and Black feminism (McCall, 2005), research literature was developed between 2000 and 2016. We included both quantitative and qualitative empirical studies. The results of this systematic review shed light on how intersectionality challenges the use of a singular category by analyzing the differences in relation to several categories such as sex, gender, ethnicity, race, age and migration status. Moreover, the findings point to the need for researchers and healthcare professionals to take into consideration multiple social determinants that intervene in migrants’ and refugees’ health in order to diminish the existing health inequities.