Health status and accessing health care services
Newcomers were generally in good health
Overall, a majority of the newcomers (78%) rated their health status as either excellent or very good. Another 19% reported themselves to be in good health. Only 3% rated their health as fair or poor.
In comparison, results of Statistics Canada’s latest Canadian Community Health Survey show that 61% of the Canadian population aged 15 years and older rated their own health as either excellent or very good, 27% as good, and 12% as fair or poor.
Since their arrival, only a relatively small percentage of immigrant newcomers reported any health-related problem: about 16% reported some physical health problems, 11% identified the needs for dental attention, and 5% reported emotional problems.
Overall, this is consistent with previous research that showed immigrants, especially recent arrivals, reported better health than their Canadian-born counterparts. Possible reasons for this may be that healthier individuals are more willing to participate in the immigration process and that, in order to be admitted into Canada, immigrants must meet certain health status criteria, as stipulated in the Immigration Act of 1976.
Majority of newcomers did not encounter any problems when accessing health care services
Almost all newcomers (97%) had obtained a health card within six months of their arrival in Canada. Of the 122,500 immigrants who tried to access health care services, 77% did not encounter any problems; the rest (23%) reported at least one difficulty.
Of those people who reported problems in accessing health care services, 34% (or 9,600 newcomers) said their most serious difficulty was the long waiting lists. About 19% (or 5,400) stated that the services, as well as dental and prescription medication, cost too much. Language barriers were cited by 15% (or 4,400) of the immigrants who reported some difficulties. Another common difficulty, cited by 12% of new arrivals, was the inability to find a doctor who would accept new patients.
An estimated 43,400 immigrants experienced some health-related problems during the initial months after coming to Canada. A majority of these newcomers (74%) received medical attention. Of the 26% who did not receive any medical attention, 3% reported that they did not seek help because the problems were not serious enough.
Among the newcomers who sought medical care for their health problems, about 72% went to a doctor’s or dentist’s office, 13% went to a walk-in clinic, and 10% went to a hospital emergency room.