Mexican migrant women are the largest and fastest-growing migrant group in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. As such, access to family planning and reproductive health services for this population is critical.
Eva Moya, Ph.D., an assistant professor of social work at The University of Texas at El Paso, is studying the sexual and reproductive health needs of migrant women to identify strategies and approaches that can be used to improve access to services, and to examine the influences on health-seeking behaviors of migrant women.
Moya was awarded a $40,000 grant by PIMSA (Programa de Investigación en Migración y Salud) from the Health Initiative of the Americas (HIA) at the University of California, Berkeley, to fund the 12-month study titled, “The Sexual and Reproductive Health of Mexican Migrant Women in Ciudad Juárez, Guadalajara, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas.”
“The results of this study will provide a better understanding of migrant women’s health needs and access to reproductive care, which will help shape public policy to improve sexual and reproductive health access and address the social determinants that influence migrant women’s health-seeking behaviors,” Moya said.
As part of the study, Moya will partner with academic and community institutions that include the Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro de Educación y Atención en Salud y Sexualidad, Alianza de Colaboraciones Fronterizas, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, Consulado Mexicano en El Paso, FEMAP Hospital de la Familia and the City of El Paso’s Public Health Department.
Starting March 1, research assistants will conduct in-depth interviews with 90 Mexican migrant women ages 18 and over, and with 45 key informants who are experts in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, to obtain information in four critical areas: to document current unmet women’s sexual and reproductive health needs, to describe the level of satisfaction of migrant women with their reproductive health services, to identify the availability of sexual and reproductive health programs, and to explore the positive and negative effects of migration on sexual and reproductive health.
In El Paso, participants will be recruited from different organizations such as the Mexican Consulate, the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services women’s support groups, University Medical Center’s Women’s Health Services, and other health care centers.
Women will be solicited from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez and the Hospital de la Familia and Hospital de la Mujer health clinics in Ciudad Juárez.
In Guadalajara, women will come from the Universidad de Guadalajara Servicios Medicos, community health centers such as the Centros de Salud en Zapopan, and community initiatives that work with migrant and indigenous communities, like the Fundación Mexicana para la Planificación Familiar, A.C., or MEXFAM.
Key informants also will be recruited by the research assistants through health centers, clinics, universities, or other health institutions.
According to Moya, Guadalajara and Juárez were selected as study sites because of the migration and mobility of women in the two cities, the strong partnerships that UTEP has already established in these two locations, and Guadalajara’s track record with sexual and reproductive health education in Mexico.
While preparing for the study, Moya found that migrant populations in Guadalajara, Juárez and El Paso share common characteristics such as poverty, health disparities and deficits of public services, day care centers, health services, hospitals, schools and public spaces. As a result, migrant and indigenous women have a more difficult time accessing sexual and reproductive health services, as well as getting an early diagnosis of an illness and appropriate treatment.
“Sexual and reproductive health rights and services are essential for everyone,” Moya said. “Access to family planning and reproductive health services are critical to the health of women and children and help prevent maternal and infant deaths and reduce unintended pregnancies.”