A qualitative study on African immigrant and refugee families’ experiences of accessing primary health care services in Manitoba, Canada: it’s not easy!

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Woodgate, Roberta L
Busolo, David S
Crockett, Maryanne
Dean, Ruth A
Amaladas, Miriam R
Plourde, Pierre J
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Abstract Background Immigrant and refugee families form a growing proportion of the Canadian population and experience barriers in accessing primary health care services. The aim of this study was to examine the experiences of access to primary health care by African immigrant and refugee families. Methods Eighty-three families originating from 15 African countries took part in multiple open ended interviews in western Canada. Qualitative data was collected in six different languages between 2013 and 2015. Data analysis involved delineating units of meaning from the data, clustering units of meaning to form thematic statements, and extracting themes. Results African immigrant and refugee families experienced challenges in their quest to access primary health care that were represented by three themes: Expectations not quite met, facing a new life, and let’s buddy up to improve access. On the theme of expectations not quite met, families struggled to understand and become familiar with a new health system that presented with a number of barriers including lengthy wait times, a shortage of health care providers, high cost of medication and non-basic health care, and less than ideal care. On the theme of facing a new life, immigrant and refugee families talked of the difficulties of getting used to their new and unfamiliar environments and the barriers that impact their access to health care services. They talked of challenges related to transportation, weather, employment, language and cultural differences, and lack of social support in their quest to access health care services. Additionally, families expressed their lack of social support in accessing care. Privately sponsored families and families with children experienced even less social support. Importantly, in the theme of let’s buddy up to improve access, families recommended utilizing networking approaches to engage and improve their access to primary health care services. Conclusions African immigrant and refugee families experience barriers to accessing primary health care. To improve access, culturally relevant programs, collaborative networking approaches, and policies that focus on addressing social determinants of health are needed.
International Journal for Equity in Health. 2017 Jan 09;16(1):5