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Open Access Research

A study of Iranian immigrants’ experiences of accessing Canadian health care services: a grounded theory

Mahdieh Dastjerdi1*, Karin Olson2 and Linda Ogilvie2

Author Affiliations

1 York University, Faculty of health, School of Nursing, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, M3J 1P, Canada

2 University of Alberta, Faculty of Nursing, 11405 87 Avenue, Edmonton, T6G 1C9, Canada

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2012, 11:55  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-55

Published: 29 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Immigration is not a new phenomenon but, rather, has deep roots in human history. Documents from every era detail individuals who left their homelands and struggled to reestablish their lives in other countries. The aim of this study was to explore and understand the experience of Iranian immigrants who accessed Canadian health care services. Research with immigrants is useful for learning about strategies that newcomers develop to access health care services.

Methods

The research question guiding this study was, “What are the processes by which Iranian immigrants learn to access health care services in Canada?” To answer the question, a constructivist grounded theory approach was applied. Initially, unstructured interviews were conducted with 17 participants (11 women and six men) who were adults (at least 18 years old) and had immigrated to Canada within the past 15 years. Eight participants took part in a second interview, and four participants took part in a third interview.

Results

Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, “tackling the stumbling blocks of access” emerged as the core category. The basic social process (BSP), becoming self-sufficient, was a transitional process and had five stages: becoming a stranger; feeling helpless; navigating/seeking information; employing strategies; and becoming integrated and self-sufficient. We found that “tackling the stumbling blocks of access” was the main struggle throughout this journey. Some of the immigrants were able to overcome these challenges and became proficient in accessing health care services, but others were unable to make the necessary changes and thus stayed in earlier stages/phases of transition, and sometimes returned to their country of origin.

Conclusion

During the course of this journey a substantive grounded theory was developed that revealed the challenges and issues confronted by this particular group of immigrants. This process explains why some Iranian immigrants are able to access Canadian health care effectively while others cannot. Many elements, including language proficiency, cultural differences, education, previous experiences, financial status, age, knowledge of the host country’s health care services, and insider and outsider resources work synergistically in helping immigrants to access health care services effectively and appropriately.

Keywords:
Immigrants; Refugees; Health care; Access; Iranians; Canada; Constructivist grounded theory