Cardiovascular health care and health literacy among immigrants in Europe: a review of challenges and opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Document Type


Publication Date



Objectives: Europe is a destination for many migrants, a group whose proportion of the overall population will increase over the next decades. The cardiovascular (CV) risk distribution and outcomes, as well as health literacy, are likely to differ from the host population. Challenges related to migrant health status, cardiovascular risk distribution and health literacy are compounded by the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) crisis. Methods: We performed a narrative review of available evidence on migrant CV and health literacy in Europe. Results: Health literacy is lower in migrants but can be improved through targeted interventions. In some subgroups of migrants, rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, most importantly hypertension and diabetes, are higher. On the other hand, there is strong evidence for a so-called healthy migrant effect, describing lower rates of CV risk distribution and mortality in a different subset of migrants. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CV risk factors, as well as health literacy, are key elements in optimally managing public health responses in the ongoing pandemic. Conclusions: Migrants are both an opportunity and a challenge for public health in Europe. Research aimed at better understanding the healthy migrant effect is necessary. Implementing the beneficial behaviors of migrants could improve outcomes in the whole population. Specific interventions to screen for risk factors, manage chronic disease and increase health literacy could improve health care for migrants. This pandemic is a challenge for the whole population, but active inclusion of immigrants in established health care systems could help improve the long-term health outcomes of migrants in Europe.

Publication Title

Journal of Public Health (Germany)

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)