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Over the past few years, the world has seen a significant rise in the number of refugees due to wars and conflicts, making war, conflicts and the increasing number of refugees a global concern. Before entering a host country, refugees often live in camps, with limited health care resources, inadequate food and water, and no access to education. Refugee women may have also experienced sexual violence, gender-based discrimination, and reproductive health problems. Resettled refugees often know little to nothing about their medical needs until a health assessment is done upon their arrival in their host country. Refugees face many challenges during their first year of resettlement, including language barriers, adapting to new culture and context, and difficulty accessing health care services. Despite significant strides made by the Canadian government towards providing refugees adequate health care services, health care disparities continue to persist between this population and the general population of a Canada. This study reveals the experiences of refugee women’s access to health care services during their first year of resettlement in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, between 2014 and 2015. This analysis examines the lives of eight post-migration refugee women from Somalia and Eritrea who arrived in Saskatoon and accessed heath care services there through the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). The IFHP serves as the primary government program that provides limited and temporary health care benefits to protected persons, including refugees and refugee claimants. Contextually, the study took place after the 2012 cuts to the IFHP were restored in 2014. In order to understand how these refugees access health care services, three health care providers and four resettlement agency representatives were interviewed. The study was conducted within the theoretical framework of intersectionality. Data collected through interviews were analyzed and interpreted through a social constructionist epistemological lens, employing an inductive thematic analysis approach. The findings revealed mixed experiences and perceptions regarding refugee access to health care services. The results also show the various ways health service providers and resettlement agencies interpret and deliver health care services to refugees. Refugees are perceived to have experienced many difficulties during their transition and upon entry to Canada. Some refugees may be unaware of the variety of health care services in Canada as these services may differ from those provided in their country of origin. Language, transportation, cultural factors, and discrimination and racism also impede refugees’ access to health care. Perceived discrimination and racism was an interesting finding that emerged from this study. The study’s results could not establish if there were actual experiences of discrimination and racism, or the refugee women did not understand how the Canadian health system operates. The study found that health service providers and resettlement agencies’ representatives shared their experiences and perceptions regarding health care services for refugees and that their services were largely appreciated by the refugee women interviewed; however, much remains to be done in the provision of accessible services. Overall, the study is intended to assist in informing programs and policies in that will help refugees in their access to health care services during the first year of resettlement.



Refugees, health care, access, language, barriers, perception, experiences, resettlement, health care services, discrimination, racism



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community and Population Health Science


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