“Migrant Women’s Health Care Needs for Chronic Illness Services in Switzerland”

Background and General Aim

Although Switzerland has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe, there is considerable health inequality between and within different population groups. Among the marginalized groups are migrants, and existing data show that particularly migrant women with chronic diseases (such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, osteoarthritis, chronic pain and depression) have limited access to healthcare services.

How do chronically ill adult women with a migratory background understand, experience, and use the Swiss healthcare system? And how can their knowledge help improve Swiss healthcare services? In a three-year study, an international research team is investigating migrant women’s experiences with the Swiss healthcare system. Findings will feed into participatory planning and recommendations for improving Swiss healthcare services.

MIWOCA’s aim is to identify improvements in the Swiss healthcare system that can make services accessible and sensitive to patients’ needs, regardless of their social and cultural backgrounds.

Objectives and Methods

With MIWOCA, we aim to understand how chronically ill migrant women perceive their health, how they manage their illnesses, what their needs are, and which resources are available to them. We will explore their experiences with the Swiss healthcare system, and how these experiences affect their access to and utilization of healthcare services.

Through individual interviews and focus groups with first-generation German, Portuguese and Turkish women with one or more chronic diseases, the study will identify their needs and challenges when using the Swiss healthcare system. In addition, providers of Swiss health and social services will be interviewed about system-based barriers to healthcare for migrant women with chronic illnesses.

Applying a mixed methods approach, quantitative (GMM II) and qualitative (interviews) data will inform later roundtable discussions. In participatory planning rounds, stakeholders from the Swiss health and social sector, patients and policy makers will develop recommendations to improve healthcare resources for chronically ill migrant women. By promoting their access to Swiss healthcare services, MIWOCA aims at reducing social inequalities in health.


A list of recommendations will be developed and made available for scientific and practice experts. Findings from the MIWOCA study will be discussed with decision-makers at relevant institutions. Implementation of the recommendations is expected to result in significant improvement of healthcare services.

Interdisciplinary, Multi-Institutional and International Collaboration

MIWOCA is an interdisciplinary study, coordinated by the University of Bern (ISPM, Prof. Dr. Thomas Abel; Farquet Ehrler Romaine, MA). It builds on a collaboration involving experts from universities in Geneva (Prof. Dr. Sandro Cattacin), Tübingen (Dr. Annika Frahsa), Istanbul (Prof. Dr. Sibel Sakarya) and Bern (Swiss Cancer League, Dr. Jörg Haslbeck). These experts form a "core team", which is designing and implementing the different project modules. Institutions outside academia, which provide social services and healthcare for migrant populations serve as advisors to this core group. An international board of researchers will provide advice on the scientific aspects of the project.

MIWOCA is part of the National Research Program “Smarter Health Care” (NRP 74) and is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

For more news visit also our MIWOCA Website www.miwoca.ch