To read this content please select one of the options below:

Investigating the diversity of Canada’s refugee population and its health implications: does one size fit all?

Bruce Newbold (School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Marie McKeary (School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




Based on a case study in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the purpose of this paper is to explore the difficulties faced by local health care providers in the face of constantly evolving refugee policies, programs, and arrivals. In doing so, it illustrates the complications faced by service providers in providing care to refugee arrivals and how the diversity of arrivals challenges health care provision and ultimately the health and well-being of refugees.


A series of semi-structured, in-depth interviews with key service professionals in both the social service and health fields in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, examined both health and health care issues.


Beyond challenges for service providers that have been previously flagged in the literature, including language barriers and the limited time that they have with their clients, analysis revealed that health care providers faced other challenges in providing care, with one challenge reflecting the difficulty of providing care and services to a diverse refugee population. A second challenge reflected the lack of knowledge associated with constantly evolving policies and programs. Both challenges potentially limit the abilities of care providers.

Research limitations/implications

On-going changes to refugee and health care policy, along with the diversity of refugee arrivals, will continue to challenge providers. The challenge, therefore, for health care providers and policy makers alike is how to ensure adequate service provision for new arrivals.

Practical implications

The Federal government should do a better job in disseminating the impact of policy changes and should streamline programs. This is particularly relevant given limited budgets and resources, tri-partite government funding, short time-frames to prepare for new arrivals, inadequate background information, barriers/challenges or inequitable criteria for access to health and social services, while addressing an increasingly diverse and complex population.

Social implications

The research reinforces the complexity of the needs and challenges faced by refugees when health is considered, and the difficulty in providing care to this group.


While there is a large refugee health literature, there is relatively little attention to the challenges and difficulties faced by service providers in addressing the health needs of the diverse refugee population, a topic that is particularly important given limited funding envelopes, shifting policies and programs, and a focus on clients (refugees). It is this latter piece – the challenges faced by providers in providing care to refugees – which this paper explores.



The authors wish to acknowledge the careful and detailed comments made by the reviewers. The research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR No. 86517).


Newbold, B. and McKeary, M. (2017), "Investigating the diversity of Canada’s refugee population and its health implications: does one size fit all?", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 145-156.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles