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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning for the health care of the Southeast Asian refugees, a review Ludwig, Barbara M.


In 1979-80 the Canadian government accepted 50,000 refugees from Southeast Asia as landed immigrants. These new immigrants, known as "The Boat people", are part of the changing pattern of world migration and come from an area that is different from Canada in terms of disease patterns, cultural beliefs and customs. They are probably also affected by their experiences of prolonged warfare and subsequent flight. The question is raised about the effect, if any, their health status will have on both the health of Canadians and/or their own future health. It is postulated that both their own characteristics and those of Canadian society will determine the problem and affect the resolving of it. Using the fields of anthropology, sociology, and history, as well as those of medicine and health care, an extensive literature search is made to determine the characteristics of the refugee/immigrants and Canadian society, and from this to delineate the problems. The problems are seen to be the immediate and longer term problems of 1) the spread of infectious diseases; 2) the importation of 'exotic' diseases into Canada; and 3) the effect of the life experiences, migration, and the process of adaptation to a new environment on the mental health of the immigrants. The resolution of the problems is found to be affected by the attitudes and beliefs of Canada and Canadians, including the immigration, social and health policies of governments; as well as by the cultural beliefs and customs of the Southeast Asians. Recommendations are made on factors seen to affect the effectiveness of health and social programs for immigrants. These include recommendations on the need for those planning and delivering health care, especially physicians, public health nurses and social workers, to be aware of the effect of culture on health behaviour and the giving of health care; and for physicians to be knowledgeable about the epidemiology and diagnosis of the so-called exotic diseases. Recommendations are also made on the roles of the different levels of government and the voluntary agencies in the immigration process with regard to immigrant health.

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