Document Type

Capstone Project


In the early 1990’s, due to political circumstances at home, Somali immigrants and refugees began arriving in the state of Minnesota in large numbers. Over the past two decades, Somali immigrants have come to comprise one of the most populous ethnic groups in the Twin Cities, and are the largest Somali population in the world outside of Eastern Africa. Although quantitative data is unavailable, qualitative evidence and testimonies of healthcare professionals support the conclusion that Somali immigrants in Minnesota suffer from higher rates of diabetes than non-immigrant groups and than they likely did before migration. Why might this be the case? In this paper, I will answer this question by dividing it into several parts. First, I will discuss the phenomenon of migration and the ways in which it can impact health. I will then move on to the adaptation approach based in the cultural ecology framework. This approach will shed light on the ways in which Somali migrant lives and livelihoods have changed, and the ways these changes may have contributed to a higher risk for diabetes. I will argue, however, that the adaptation approach has shortcomings that can be addressed by the framework of political ecology. This framework is useful in analyzing political economy, scale, spatial/historical interconnections, and discourse in Somali health. I will conclude by providing several recommendations for healthcare providers and policy makers.



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