Children entertain themselves by watching a show on a cell phone at El Barretal shelter in Tijuana, Mexico on December 9, 2018. A new study out of Boston University School of Public Health found that former President Donald Trump's election was associated with a 5% drop in well-child visits for children of immigrant mothers in the United States. File photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 18 (UPI) -- A new study is blaming former President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric for a decline in preventative healthcare visits among children born to migrant mothers.
Researchers at Boston University School of Public Health found that Trump's 2016 election was associated with a 5% drop in well-child visits for children of immigrant mothers, compared to children of U.S. mothers.
The study, published Monday in the journal Health Affairs Scholar, is the first to examine the "chilling effect" of immigration status-related fears.
"Missing well-child visits is deeply worrisome since so many vital health and development checks and referrals happen at these visits, where waiting could mean long-term harms to health or developmental delays. In addition, parents miss out on support and connections to other resources, which could potentially compound existing inequities," Dr. Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, research associate professor of health law, policy & management and pediatrics at BUSPH, said in a statement.
According to the study, one in four children in the United States has at least one immigrant parent. Researchers analyzed electronic health record data and healthcare surveys of nearly 11,000 children of immigrant and U.S. mothers in Boston, Minneapolis and Little Rock, Ark., between the years of 2015 and 2018, which cover the Trump campaign and the early months of his presidency.
During the first few years of the Trump administration, restrictions for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border were implemented, along with interior immigration enforcement and travel bans for several Muslim-majority countries.
"We found that Trump's rhetoric and election were already driving parents' decisions about seeking preventative healthcare for their young children, even before some of these policies were implemented," Ettinger de Cuba said.
Researchers say the number of well-child visits for children of immigrant mothers dropped from 54% before the 2016 election to nearly 49% by 2017. There was no change in well-child visits for U.S-born children after Trump took office, according to the researchers.
"These results underscore the need for changes to both laws and regulations that recognize the individual and societal impact of ensuring immigrant families can meet all of their basic needs, including healthcare, without fear," Ettinger de Cuba said.
"Words matter and have real-life consequences in campaigns and governance," Ettinger de Cuba added. "Much more work is needed to rebuild trust in immigrant communities."