PSTC Researchers attend Migrant Health Mini-Conference in South Africa

December 22, 2022

This October, Professor of Population Studies Mike White and PSTC Postdoctoral Research Associate Chantel Pfeiffer gathered with fellow researchers from the Migrant Health Follow Up Study (MHFUS) for a mini-conference at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Public Health in Johannesburg, South Africa. At the conference, researchers discussed the ongoing progress of MHFUS, presented recent research findings, and identified directions for future work as the project prepares to enter its sixth year. 

Bringing together researchers from Brown University, the University of Maryland, the University of Missouri, and Wits University, MHFUS is a 5-year cohort study of 3800 19–40 year old internal migrants and residents of the Agincourt sub-district in South Africa’s rural northeast. The project aims to examine the chronic health conditions and livelihood changes that accompany migration, and explore migrant-origin community connections. Since 2017, this mobile cohort of migrants has been followed in four waves of study using both in-person and remote research techniques due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The conference program included presentations on a variety of research topics including migration and HIV care engagement, youth migration and livelihoods, parenting and migrant well-being, the relationship between migration and mental health, migration and multimorbidity, and dietary patterns in the context of internal migration.

PSTC Professor Mike White presented research findings on the relationship between grit and migrant populations, finding that migrants in the study scored higher on psychological indexes measuring perseverance. 

“This ‘grit’ selectivity was more apparent for women than men in our analysis,” says Professor White. “This encourages some more thinking on the relationship between migration and gender.” 

MHFUS brings together colleagues from across various disciplines including Anthropology, Economics, Public Health, and Sociology, as well as researchers from a variety of geographic locations and universities. Many researchers at the PSTC, including George and Nancy Parker Professor of Economics Andy Foster, Professor of Epidemiology and Anthropology Steve McGarvey, Associate Professor of Epidemiology Mark Lurie, and PreDoctoral Trainee in Public Health Rachel Yortlets, also made meaningful research contributions to the project, illuminating the collaborative benefits of this interdisciplinary research approach.

“We benefited from PSTC and Wits staff and trainee involvement—social science and public health—on both sides of the ocean,” says Professor White. “Discussions are already underway for seeking continuation funding to extend the Migrant Heath Follow-Up Study into future years.”