Breaking down borders: the migration phenomenon and the training of nutritionist-dietitian


Breaking down borders: the migration phenomenon and the training of nutritionist-dietitian

Derribando fronteras: del fenómeno migratorio y la formación del nutricionista-dietista


Eduard Antonio Maury-Sintjago1*
Ximena Sanhueza-Riquelme1
Alejandra Rodríguez-Fernández2


1Bío-Bío University. Faculty of Health and Food Sciences. Department of Nutrition and Public Health. Chillán Chile.
2The Americas University. Faculty of Health Sciences. Chile.


*Author for correspondence. E-mail:



Submitted: 20/10/2018
Accepted: 28/05/2019



To the editor:

We live in an era of unprecedented human mobility in which people constantly move between national and international geographic borders. Worldwide international migration reached 244 million migrants in 2015.(1) In Latin America, south-south migration generated a significant increase in recent years, however, it remains stable and only corresponds to 1.5% of the total population. However, Chile has become one of the Latin American countries with the greatest influx of immigrants, which has increased from 83 805 (1982) to 410 988 (2014); currently it is reported that the figure is close to one million people. (2) According to the report, the five countries of origin with the highest percentage of visas delivered are Peru (27.5%), Colombia (17.8%), Bolivia (17.1%) Haiti (5.8%) and Venezuela (5.7%).

In accordance with what was reported by Vásquez-De Kartzow, migration and health are related and interdependent.(3) On the one hand, the migration process, per se, places individuals in situations that can affect their physical and mental well-being. The conditions surrounding this process can increase the vulnerability that leads to poor health, especially for those immigrants who move from the poorest countries, in situations of wars or as a consequence of natural disasters.(4) On the other hand, the cultural and languages differences between the host society and migrant groups can condition public programs for health promotion, access to health services and disease control.(5)

Due to the above, the author of this letter asks several questions related to current training plans in the areas of health, social assistance and particularly nutrition, and correspondingly expresses his concern to this regard: will the curricula be oriented to the development of transnational competences, such as inter-ethnic clinical care (with this new «other»)? Are nutritionist-dietitian schools incorporating the cultural significance of «new cuisine» into their training? Are nutrition professionals able to perform a correct collection of information on food habits and caloric-nutritional intake in immigrants? Do they know the culinary techniques, ingredients and representations of health-disease-food of immigrant groups? Most probably the answer to these questions is negative and this is mainly due to the fact that the curricula of nutrition and dietetics degrees have not been renewed at the same speed with which international mobility has increased.

Universities and professional schools must join forces (and rush) in the adjustments of their curricula to the demands of an increasingly globalized and international society. Some efforts have been observed, for example, the Bio-Bio University of (Chile) carried out during the year 2018 the I Conference on Health, Migration and Quality of Life of the Region of Ñuble (southern Chile). In this region the migratory phenomenon is very recent, but it has the peculiarity that 80 % of immigrants are of Haitian origin, so cultural and linguistic differences represent a great challenge for professionals and students of the health branch.

Finally, we must recognize the important commitment that universities have to society, that´s why we urge that interaction between migrant populations and those linked to the updating of training programs be generated to the maximum.



1. OIM. Informe sobre las migraciones en el mundo. 2018. Organización Internacional para las Migraciones [Internet]; 2018. Disponible en:

2. DEM. Reportes migratorios: población migrante en Chile. Departamento de Extranjería y Migración, Gobierno de Chile [Internet]; 2017. Disponible en:

3. Vásquez-De Kartzow, R. La nueva ola de inmigración en Chile. Oportunidad para crecer como país. Rev Chilena de Pediatría. 2018:89(3):307-309.

4. Marmot M. Society and Health of Migrants. European Journal of Epidemiology. 2016;31:639.

5. Salim A, Nusrat S, Nahid R, Gary B, Sonja W, Tanvir T. Barriers to Access of Primary Healthcare by Immigrant Populations in Canada: A Literature Review. J Immigrant Minority Health. 2016;18:1522.



Declaration of interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



Contribution of the authors

Eduard Antonio Maury-Sintjago: project manager, original idea, writing and final revision.
Ximena Sanhueza-Riquelme: alternate project manager, drafting and final review.
Alejandra Rodríguez-Fernández: Co-researcher, editor and final review.




The authors thank the funds granted by the Universidad del Bío-Bío (PEAUSCH-01-2018 and DIUBB 182420 4 / R)



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