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Ethnic minority seniors face health hurdles

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Sharon Koehn, 604.806.9639;
Marianne Meadahl/Julie Ovenell-Carter, PAMR, 604.291.3210

November 14, 2006

Ethnic minority seniors face a number of barriers when it comes to accessing health care, according to a Simon Fraser University study.

Study researcher Sharon Koehn found that the health care sector needs to reconsider the commonly held belief that ethnic seniors do not seek formal health care services because these are provided by their families.

Immigrant families torn between changing values and the economic realities that accompany immigration cannot always provide optimal care for their elders, she notes.

Koehn held focus groups with seniors and family members from Indo-Canadian, Vietnamese, and Hispanic communities, as well as health care and multicultural service providers for her study, Barriers to Access to Care for Ethnic Minority Seniors.

Seniors cite conflicting family values, language barriers, immigration status, and failing to understand the roles of health authorities and service providers as issues getting in the way of access to care.

Most of the seniors interviewed said they knew little about the health care services available to them. A limited awareness of the ethnic seniors’ needs by health care providers compounds the problem, notes Koehn.

Koehn says seniors need targeted outreach, prevention and treatment services in their own languages, or at the very least, translated materials to better link them with multicultural programs.

Koehn spent three years at SFU’s gerontology research centre on a Canadian Health Services Research Foundation postdoctoral fellowship and is currently a research associate for Vancouver’s Centre for Healthy Aging at Providence, where her research continues to focus on ethnic minority seniors.