Effect of Service Barriers on Health Status of Aging South Asian Immigrants in Calgary, Canada

By Lai, Daniel W. L.; Surood, Shireen | Health and Social Work, February 2013 | Go to article overview

Effect of Service Barriers on Health Status of Aging South Asian Immigrants in Calgary, Canada


Lai, Daniel W. L., Surood, Shireen, Health and Social Work


Although it is believed that service barriers can negatively affect health outcomes, little research is available to examine this relationship. This study contributes empirical knowledge to understand aging South Asians in Canada by examining the relationships between service barriers and their health status. The research objective is to examine the effect of service barriers on the health of aging South Asians.

Among the various immigrant populations in Canada, immigrants from South Asian countries have grown most significantly. The South Asian population was 1.26 million (Statistics Canada, 2008), making them the largest visible minority (that is, people of color) group of people who are non-European in race, not white in color, and not aboriginal people (Statistics Canada, 2008). In Canada, people who identify themselves as South Asians report an ethnic origin from the southern part of Asia, including countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal (Tran, Kaddatz, & Allard, 2005).

Published research findings have focused largely on well-recognized groups such as the Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian communities; studies regarding the barriers and challenges of aging South Asian immigrants in Canada are scant (Koehn, 2009). Most research on aging South Asians is either from the United States or the United Kingdom (Moffatt & Mackintosh, 2009) and fails to examine the effect of these barriers on health outcomes (Parveen & Morrison, 2010).

NEEDS AND CHALLENGES OF ETHNOCULTURAL MINORITIES

Ethnocultural minority older adults have greater health needs as well as greater difficulty accessing health care, and they face double or multiple jeopardy due to age, ethnicity, gender, or other sociocultural characteristics (Damron-Rodriguez, Wallace, & Kington, 1994). When compared with the younger age cohorts, ethnic minority older adults encounter many more challenges and barriers to health care and are often considered more vulnerable (Koehn, 2009).

Service access problems of ethnocultural minority older adults include language incompatibility (Lai & Chau, 2007), lack of transportation (Dupuis, Weiss, & Wolfson, 2007), inadequate knowledge of services (Zanchetta & Poureslami, 2006), and inadequate financial resources (Anderson et al., 2000). Other challenges--including institutional racism, mistrust of the system, inadequate knowledge of available services, lack of availability of culturally sensitive services, personal beliefs, family dynamics, and culturally dissimilar styles of interaction--are present between users and service providers (Lai & Chau 2007; Zanchetta & Poureslami, 2006).

The physical and mental health status of aging immigrants is influenced by their interactions with and experience in the health care system (Willems, De Maesschalck, Deveugele, Derese, & De Maeseneer, 2005). Barriers such as having limited access to services can also negatively affect the health and well-being of individuals (Sorkin, Pham, & Quyen, 2009). However, most studies fail to report the effects of service barriers on health outcomes. One exception was a study by Lai and Chau (2007), in which service barriers were significantly related to poorer physical and mental health of aging Chinese in Canada.

For instance, Lai and Chau (2007) found that gender, age, self-rated financial adequacy, and immigrant status were significant predictors of physical health, whereas higher social support, living with others, and better self-rated financial adequacy were found to have a positive effect on the mental health of participants. At the same time, the authors found that administrative problems, personal attitudes, and circumstantial challenges were also significant predictors of both physical and mental health. Another study conducted by Lai, Tsang, Chappell, Lai, and Chau (2007) further reported the relationship between personal beliefs and health status. …

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