Feb. 26, 2019

Study provides benchmark on understudied area of immigrant health in Calgary

UCalgary researcher works with community partner to shed new light on the health outcomes and experiences of newcomers

Immigrants in Calgary have reported better self-perceived health outcomes than non-immigrants, according to a new University of Calgary report. 

While the traditional overall integration experience for many immigrants involves greater barriers to accessing health and social services, due to multiple factors including language, transportation, information, service fees, and discrimination, respondents in this survey said their physical and mental health needs are being met at higher rates than non-immigrants, they feel a sense of belonging in the local community, and they report fewer chronic conditions than their neighbours born in Canada.

“This is a good news story,” says co-author Dr. Naomi Lightman, PhD, assistant sociology professor and a member of the Newcomer Research Network  based at the University of Calgary. “It doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t access barriers that exist but it suggests that lots of things are functioning properly.”

The study was the first collaboration between the Newcomer Research Network and the Calgary Local Immigration Partnership (CLIP).

Lightman and co-author Sharon Stroick, the data and information co-ordinator for CLIP, used pooled data from the Canadian Community Health Survey from the Calgary zone community health region between January 2013 and December 2016. The sample includes 5,529 survey respondents.

Lightman said she took on the study to shed more light on immigrant health outcomes in Calgary, an area that hasn’t received very much academic study compared to other major Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

By partnering with CLIP, Lightman hopes the research can be useful beyond the academic world.

“It really is a goal of mine to be doing work that has an impact in the community and that it’s relevant to not just other researchers in my field, but to immigrants themselves and people working on the ground with immigrants,” says Lightman. “It’s gratifying in a different way than publishing a scholarly journal article.

“Hopefully this is the first of future collaborations between the University of Calgary and CLIP. It would be worthwhile to replicate this study in the future and also perhaps look at other aspects of immigrant integration in Calgary.”

The study was done in partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the City of Calgary.

The Newcomer Research Network was launched in the fall of 2016 with the aim of addressing key challenges facing newcomer Canadians. Through funding received as part of the UCalgary’s Human Dynamics in a Changing World strategic initiative, the network facilitates research partnerships to inform professional education, policy and service provision with newcomers, including immigrants, refugees and international students.