The Wellesley Institute has released a new qualitative research study focusing on the link between neighbourhood and the health of new immigrants. The initiative focuses on the St. James Town (SJT) area of Toronto, which is an urban multicultural neighbourhood located in the northeast corner of the city’s downtown core.
The study focuses on both the “place-based” characteristics of SJT and individual-level factors, including newcomer immigrants’ perceptions of the neighbourhood, their social relations, and their access to health and social services. The research includes data gathered through focus groups and interviews with three ethno-racial immigrant populations, Tamil, Filipino and Chinese (Mandarin-speaking), and compares their experiences with those of Canadian-born residents in the neighbourhood. Neighbourhood factors examined include housing quality, social networks and supports, safety, and access to services and recreational space.
The objectives of the study were to: explore how newcomer immigrants define health; understand how place influences newcomer immigrant health; explore the neighbourhood factors newcomer immigrants identify as influencing their health; and examine how neighbourhood factors are conceptualized and experienced across and within different groups.
The results of the study indicate that SJT newcomer immigrant residents face multiple issues relating to migration and resettlement, including:
- Limited recreational programs for families;
- Language barriers in mainstream services and difficulties finding a health care provider of the same ethnic background;
- Difficulty navigating the health system and accessing social services because of a lack of available information to newcomers;
- Discrimination in health facilities (which also affects Canadian-born residents of SJT); and
- Funding and programming constraints for community service providers trying to address ethnic and cultural differences in the neighbourhood.
With regards to mental health and well-being, immigrants settling in urban settings encounter increased stress as a result of adapting to a new environment. A specific challenge for ethnic groups is access to culturally appropriate mental health services. The report states that prioritization of services that target mental health issues of marginalized groups is needed in St. James Town.
See “Exploring the Link Between Neighbourhood and Newcomer Immigrant Health: A Qualitative Study,” Wellesley Institute, July 2010, and two policy briefs, “Availability and Access to Health and Social Services” and “Impacts of the Physical Environment on Health and Well-Being”, available at www.wellesleyinstitute.com