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Migrant Health
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Migrant Health

Each year, an estimated 230,000 Mexicans migrate to the U.S., and 11 million currently live here permanently. Yet these individuals’ stories are often lost in the shuffle as they settle into their new lives up north. By analyzing, mapping and visualising hard-to-find data on this population, Migrant Health (Salud Migrante) asks: What are the health impacts of a chronic fear of deportation?

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Salud Migrante (Migrant Health) was born out of a collaboration at Mexico Migrahack between journalists and a statistician, an economist, a software programmer, and a biologist — a seemingly unlikely team. Each specialist brought to the project a unique interest in exploring the well-being of undocumented Mexican migrants after they settle in the United States.

Gabriel García Plata, a public health researcher and economist and the team organizer, said the team wanted to know: What’s the biggest sacrifice most migrants make to avoid going back to Mexico, where they may not find many opportunities, and may have to face violence? After looking at data and interviews, the group was surprised by the answer. Turns out migrants were most willing to sacrifice their health.

After analyzing the data during Mexico Migrahack “we became pretty convinced that what we had started had the potential of creating a real change in the lives of migrants,” García Plata says. “There are so many ways in which migrants suffer before and after crossing the border. Before, they may face a series of abuses, from sexual exploitation, to forced recruitment in gangs, and human rights abuses. Afterwards, they have to become invisible, foregoing access to health care services and protection from abuse.”

After Mexico Migrahack, team members kept in touch, collaborating in their off-hours, volunteering their time to establish a unique domain name, more data visualizations and mapping, and an interactive webpage. What had been a simple map with lots of static text, had now become a well-designed, interactive, and thorough examination of the prevalence of the top seven health issues affecting Mexican migrants.

Two months after Migrahack, Salud Migrante was one of five winners at Hackslabs, a data journalism accelerator focused on Latin America. Hackslabs’ $2,000 grant has been invested back into the project, which will soon feature more hard-to-find data on the health status of immigrants.

Meanwhile, the team is also hoping to raise more funds so they can expand their reach. The plan is for the Salud Migrante website to become a platform where journalists, academics, and NGOs can share and exchange information with the public, both to educate, and work towards reducing the challenges faced by Mexican migrants in the United States.

Team Salud en Migración: Gabriel Garcia Plata, Alejandra Galván Clark, Itzel Reyes Torres, Idalia Gómez Silva, Kevin Martinez , Edgar Lemus and Aura Montemayor Lara.

Gabriel García Plata, organizer of the Salud Migrante project, gives a presentation at Mexico Migrahack. Photo by Aurelia Ventura.

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