The United Kingdom’s Somali populations as medical nomads

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Much medical travel scholarship has been driven by a commercial focus whereby private providers pursue a high-value and complex patient market, primarily emanating from the Middle East, North America and Western Europe. This emphasis has led to a framing around ‘medical tourism’, prompting countervailing critiques of the term and the introduction of alternatives including ‘medical pilgrimage’ and ‘medical exile’. Reappraising the dynamics of mobility has led to explanations of medical travel increasingly located in fields of diaspora and transnationalism. The article identifies how diasporas and transnational communities resist straightforward categorisation regarding the routes and processes through which they utilise healthcare. In this vein the article introduces the concept of ‘medical nomadism’ and grounds it in the experiences of Somali patients’ travel from the United Kingdom for healthcare overseas. It argues medical nomadism is a distinct medical travel behaviour, pointing to similar behaviours of Cape Verdeans living in Netherlands, and the concept’s utility in interrogating broader health-seeking mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4913-4210
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number19-20
Early online date11 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Medical tourism
  • Somali
  • exile
  • medical nomad
  • pilgrim
  • transnationalism

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