Dr. Adrienne Sabety is an economist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy at Stanford University. She studies healthcare and the social determinants of health. Her work includes a large, 14-month study in collaboration with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City targeting barriers to accessing health care for uninsured, undocumented immigrants. We spoke with her about this work, and how undocumented immigrants—and society more broadly—benefit when access to primary, preventive care is expanded.
What are the particular challenges that undocumented immigrants face accessing health care, and what prompted your collaboration with the New York City’s health and mental hygiene department to investigate this problem?
Undocumented immigrants are a hugely vulnerable group, and we know very little about their health needs and how they utilize healthcare. The opportunity to work with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York was an awesome way to start digging into undocumented immigrants’ healthcare needs and utilization patterns.
Now, several years after our study, expanding access to undocumented immigrants is even more relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted low-income and immigrant populations, exacerbating longstanding healthcare disparities.