Dr. Kamal Eldeirawi has first-hand experience of the profound impact that poverty can have on the level and the quality of health care one can receive. As an immigrant, born in Palestine’s Gaza Strip, he saw the challenges his family and others faced in his native country when seeking health care and then again as an immigrant arriving in the U.S. His history spurred Dr. Eldeirawi to pursue a career in nursing and to search to uncover why immigration status is such an extreme risk factor in health care.

Guiding his interests, Elderirawi got a position in 2000 for a state-sponsored asthma project where he would travel to Chicago public schools and screen children for asthma and respiratory conditions.  This in turn led to his deeper understanding of the difficulties low-income and immigrant parents experience accessing adequate health care for their children. As part of his daily work, he uncovered additional obstacles that these families face each day, lack of insurance, not enough money to send their children to a doctor, and the simple fact that immigrants often have difficulty communicating with school staff due to language barriers.

Today, as Assistant Director in the Department of Health Systems Science, Eldeirawi still strives in his research to work on improving the health of underserved and immigrant children, eliminate asthma-related health disparities, and to develop strategies to prevent asthma and its consequences.

Twelve percent of Mexican American children in the United States have asthma - a chronic condition that affects around 40 million people in the U.S.  This immigrant population is Eldeirawi’s focus and, as such, he has pioneered an area of research on the effect of immigration and acculturation on asthma and respiratory health in Mexican American children.  Eldeirawi’s team found that these children, when born in the U.S., were more than twice as likely to have asthma as their counterparts born in Mexico.

Eldeirawi wants to know why migrating to, and living in, the United States, potentially contributes to asthma and possibly other health conditions for these immigrant children. As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar (2013-2016), he will take his early gathered data on neighborhood-level characteristics and now look at environmental exposures in U.S. cities, the American diet, and the stress of immigrating to a new country.  He will also look at other respiratory conditions and the interrelationships among these neighborhood factors and individual level characteristics such as immigration status, acculturation, or other factors. He and his team hope to release some early results within a year.

To review Eldeirawi’s research and other acculturation aspects of children of Mexican American descent in the U.S. click here.