Researcher works with immigrant communities to improve health

posted on November 25, 2016

By Brittany DeAngelis, O’Brien Institute for Public Health |

By Brittany DeAngelis, O’Brien Institute for Public Health |

From language barriers, to securing housing, to finding work, newcomers to Canada face a wide array of challenges — and accessing quality health care is no exception. A University of Calgary researcher is working with local immigrant and refugee communities to develop solutions to these challenges — and is making sure to keep these communities engaged throughout the process.

An immigrant himself, Turin Tanvir Chowdhury, PhD, has first-hand experience with the barriers these newcomers face. He has discussed the barriers with friends, and friends of friends who are experiencing them, and says it is time for something to be done.

“I have seen the newly arrived people around me dealing with post-immigration stress related to things like settlement, working multiple jobs to provide for their family, and adapting to a new culture. All these factors push the priority of health to a lower level of importance,” says Chowdhury, a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and assistant professor with the Departments of Family Medicine and Community Health Sciences in the Cumming School of Medicine.

When immigrants come to Canada, they are generally in better health than their Canadian counterparts, according to Chowdhury. However, what worries him is how quickly their health deteriorates after they arrive — often much more quickly than that of other Canadians.

In addition to the stress of setting up a life in a new country, things like a lack of knowledge about Canada’s health-care system, inadequacy or unavailability of culturally sensitive care, and communication issues can act as barriers to accessing primary care and addressing unmet health needs.

Chowdhury says he doesn’t need to do more research identifying the barriers — that’s been done. But for solutions to be developed there needs to be buy-in from the communities where the solutions are being proposed, and opening a dialogue is key.

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