A qualitative approach to the study of immigrants: Health and care of irregular immigrants in the city of Naples
Gagliardi, Adele Stefania
Agenzia Regionale Sanitaria Regione Puglia Bari, Italy
Italian legislation states that irregular immigrants may receive urgent or essential medical and hospital care from the public health structures. Many immigrants, however, either due to diffidence or ignorance, do not make the most of the rights provided to them by law. This inspired the author to investigate the healthcare irregular immigrants use outside the institutions officially delegated to resolving their health problems, performing a study in the city of Naples, a large metropolis in the South of Italy, and the destination of consistent migratory flow since the 1970s.
Considering its particular object, a qualitative methodology was used to conduct this study. This did not, however, exclude the use of what quantitative data is available on the subject, in order to obtain a clearer picture of the context in which the study is performed; this information also enabled the author to elaborate a reliable estimate of the irregular immigrant population, valid for the territory and the period of the study.
Within the situation delineated by the quantitative data she then inserted the qualitative approach based on Daniel Bertaux´s "récits de vie": in fact, she preferred to build a communicational relationship with each immigrant in which he or she was given the occasion to talk about themselves and their own experience of immigration rather than keeping the contact within the strict boundaries of an interview focussing only on healthcare. Overall the author performed 40 interviews, 10 with privileged observers and 30 with irregular immigrants.
In particular, the methodology used allowed her to highlight the centrality of the meso level in the subject studied, in the sense that immigrants´ healthcare was closely connected to the quality of the relational network to which they belonged. This contributed to show that the world of irregular immigrants is more composite than we can consider and there are surprising affinities and separations between irregular immigrants, regular immigrants and citizens within a contemporary society which is becoming ever more complex.