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Yale University

Publication Date

Spring 2023

Program Name

Switzerland: Global Health and Development Policy


While Switzerland houses what is generally considered one of the best healthcare systems globally, regional policy discrepancies leave undocumented migrants (UDM) in precarious conditions that threaten the nation’s claim to universal health coverage. Critical analyses of existing UDM-catering structures in different cantons, the Swiss Confederation member states, reveal that local discrepancies in healthcare utilization are functional gradients of cantonal support and public endorsement. Relationships with these authorities are instrumental in steering health outcomes not only with program funding and outreach but also management of studies to better understand UDM health determinants and inform future preventative measures.

UDM services and initiatives operate throughout the nation albeit with urbanity variations. However, while French-speaking cantons, notably Geneva and Vaud, are generally more receptive to migrant populations and transparent with services, German-speaking cantons, including Zürich and Bern, lack public cantonal support which may create underlying currents of distrust among UDM, many of whom hear about services through word-of-mouth. Findings reveal that in place of public hospitals that assume responsibility for UDM in French-speaking regions are non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in German-speaking counterparts. While these NGOs typically develop greater trust with vulnerable populations and can aid individuals with navigating unfamiliar health systems and care treatment, they remain limited in scope in migrant support and outreach due to autonomy from cantonal authorities and thus, finite resources and funding. These results demonstrate the interplay between the different layers of organizational structures within the cantons and pave the way for investigation in how to equilibrate such differences.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Health Policy | International Public Health | Medicine and Health | Migration Studies | Patient Safety


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