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Open Access Research

The case of Iranian immigrants in the greater Toronto area: a qualitative study

Mahdieh Dastjerdi

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Health, School of Nursing, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada

International Journal for Equity in Health 2012, 11:9  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-9

Published: 27 February 2012

Abstract

Introduction

Iranians comprise an immigrant group that has a very different cultural background from that of the mainstream Canadian population and speaks a language other than English or French; in this case mainly Farsi (Persian). Although Iranian immigrants in Toronto receive a high proportion of care from Farsi-speaking family physicians and health care providers than physicians who cannot speak Farsi, they are still not satisfied with the provided services. The purpose of this study was to identify the obstacles and issues Iranian immigrants faced in accessing health care services as seen through the eyes of Iranian health care professionals/providers and social workers working in Greater Toronto Area, Canada.

Methods

Narrative inquiry was used to capture and understand the obstacles this immigrant population faces when accessing health care services, through the lens of fifty Iranian health care professionals/providers and social workers. Thirty three health care professionals and five social workers were interviewed. To capture the essence of issues, individual interviews were followed by three focus groups consisting of three health care professionals and one social worker in each group.

Results

Three major themes emerged from the study: language barrier and the lack of knowledge of Canadian health care services/systems; lack of trust in Canadian health care services due to financial limitations and fear of disclosure; and somatization and needs for psychological supports.

Conclusion

Iranians may not be satisfied with the Canadian health care services due to a lack of knowledge of the system, as well as cultural differences when seeking care, such as fear of disclosure, discrimination, and mistrust of primary care. To attain equitable, adequate, and effective access to health care services, immigrants need to be educated and informed about the Canadian health care system and services it provides. It would be of great benefit to this population to hold workshops on health topics, and mental health issues, build strong ties with the community by increasing their involvement, use plain language, design informative and health related websites in both Farsi and English, and provide a Farsi speaking telephone help line to answer their health related issues.

Keywords:
Access to health care; Iranian immigrants and refugees; Canada; GTA; Toronto; Health care providers; Health care professionals; Social workers