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Health care and reference to Vietnam: experiences of immigrants and refugees in Saskatoon



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This thesis focuses on the experiences of Vietnamese immigrants and refugees in accessing health care services in Saskatoon. Within Canada, terms such as immigrant and refugee are assigned to reflect the differing circumstances that “newcomers,” i.e. foreign-born residents, arrive under, who are typically classified as either temporary or permanent residents (Gushulak et al. 2011). Research has suggested that newcomers to Canada from non-European countries tend to under-utilize health services (Curtis and MacMinn 2008; Luu, Leung and Nash 2009; O’Mahony and Donnelly 2007; Whitley, Kirmayer and Groleau 2006), while language and cultural differences are cited as barriers to health care (Asanin and Wilson 2008; Gushulak et al. 2011; Kirmayer et al. 1996). Qualitative health research regarding Vietnamese immigrants and refugees in Saskatchewan is currently lacking. The purpose of this study was to elicit a deeper understanding of experiences in accessing health care services through open-ended interviews. A total of 14 interviews were conducted regarding the health care experiences of members of the Vietnamese community in Saskatoon. The aim was to examine the possible socio-cultural determinants affecting the experiences of this study’s participants, to explore whether or not these determinants resulted in health care under-utilization, and to determine areas for future research, particularly, in working to resolve barriers to care for immigrant and refugee groups. Participants iterated the challenges that newcomers face in accessing health care, such as language, cultural, geographical, and socio-economic differences, as identified within the literature. However, the most elaborate responses given by the Vietnamese-born participants in this study were built around references to Vietnam (their country of origin). In particular, they described their experiences in Saskatoon through comparisons of health care and larger socio-economic circumstances in Vietnam. While participants described both positive and negative experiences, the consensus was that health care is generally better in Canada than in Vietnam. This thesis illustrates the value of examining the participants’ descriptions of Vietnam in understanding their experiences with health care in Saskatoon. These findings contribute to a contextual understanding of the socio-cultural determinants affecting the experiences of immigrants and refugees. I follow previous research studies to suggest that the cross-cultural contexts of health and illness need to be continually explored in health research regarding immigrants and refugees.



Vietnamese, Canada, health care services, utilization, immigrants, refugees, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, qualitative health research, narrative, memory, medical anthropology



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Archaeology and Anthropology




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