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Healthcare needs and health service utilization by Syrian refugee women in Toronto

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Sepali Guruge, Souraya Sidani, Vathsala Illesinghe, Rania Younes, Huda Bukhari, Jason Altenberg, Meb Rashid and Suzanne Fredericks

Conflict and Health 2018 12:46

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-018-0181-x | © The Author(s). 2018

Abstract

Objective

Access to healthcare is an important part of the (re)settlement process for Syrian refugees in Canada. There is growing concern about the healthcare needs of the 54,560 Syrian refugees who were admitted to Canada by May 2018, 80% of whom are women and children. We explored the healthcare needs of newcomer Syrian women, their experiences in accessing and using health services, and the factors and conditions that shape whether and how they access and utilize health services in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Method

This community-based qualitative descriptive interpretive study was informed by Yang & Hwang (2016) health service utilization framework. Focus group discussions were held with 58 Syrian newcomer women in the GTA. These discussions were conducted in Arabic, audio-recorded with participants’ consent, translated into English and transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results

Participants’ health concerns included chronic, long-term conditions as well as new and emerging issues. Initial health insurance and coverage were enabling factors to access to services, while language and social disconnection were barriers. Other factors, such as beliefs about naturopathic medicine, settlement in suburban areas with limited public transportation, and lack of linguistically, culturally, and gender-appropriate services negatively affected access to and use of healthcare services.

Conclusion

Responding to the healthcare needs of Syrian newcomer women in a timely and comprehensive manner requires coordinated, multi-sector initiatives that can address the financial, social, and structural barriers to their access and use of services.