Framing health deservingness of undocumented immigrants: perspectives from health workers at two Alabama clinics
This study seeks to answer the call of medical anthropologists to study the moral issue of health deservingness through social scientific analysis. Specifically, this research attempts to find ways in which notions of health care deservingness for undocumented immigrants are framed by health workers in the southeastern United States. Interviews were conducted with health workers at all levels (n=31) in two safety-net clinics in Alabama to test two hypotheses. Based on clinic characteristics, it was hypothesized that a medical humanitarianism frame would be more frequently used among health workers at the community health center than at the public health department clinic. Based on the interests of public health in infectious disease control and surveillance, it was hypothesized that an infectious disease frame would be more frequently used among health workers at the public health department clinic than at the community health center. Content analysis was used to examine arguments, and chi-squares were used to test hypotheses. Health workers at both clinics stressed medical humanitarianism more than any other frame to argue for the health deservingness of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Furthermore, participants relied on the articulation of several frames. Conclusions demonstrate the salience of humanitarian ideals and reveal the ways in which frames are used to argue for or against deservingness.