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Original research
Health examinations of child migrants in Europe: screening or assessment of healthcare needs?
  1. Anders Hjern1,2,
  2. Liv Stubbe Østergaard3,
  3. Marie-Louise Nörredam3
  1. 1 Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS), Karolinska Institutet/Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  2. 2 Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet/Stockholm University, Clinical Epidemiology, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3 Section for Health Services Research, Danish Research Centre for Migration, Ethnicity and Health (MESU), Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anders Hjern; anders.hjern{at}


Background More than 800 000 asylum-seeking children were registered in Europe during 2015–2017. Many of them arrived with accumulated needs of healthcare. In this study, we examined the legislation for health examinations on arrival for migrant children in the EU/EAA area.

Methods We did a survey to child health professionals within the EU-funded MOCHA project, supplemented by desktop research of official documents.

Results In all but three surveyed countries in the EU/EEA, there were systematic health examinations of newly settled migrant children. In most eastern European countries and Germany, this health examination was mandatory; while in the rest of western and northern Europe it was mostly voluntary. All countries that had a mandatory policy of health examinations screened for communicable diseases to protect the host population. Almost all countries with a voluntary policy also aimed to assess a child’s individual healthcare needs, but this was rarely the case in countries with a mandatory policy.

Conclusion Systematic health examinations of migrant children are routinely performed in most countries in the EU/EEA; but in many countries, it could be improved considerably by extending the focus from screening for communicable diseases to assessing and addressing individual needs of healthcare.

  • screening
  • school health
  • infectious diseases
  • health service
  • children’s rights

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  • Contributors AH came up with the idea to this study, interpreted the results, wrote the first draft and revised the manuscript. LSØ collected and analysed the data interpreted the results and revised the manuscript. MN interpreted the data and revised the manuscript.

  • Funding European Commission Horizon 2020 programme.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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