Ethnicity and utilization of family physicians: a case study of Mainland Chinese immigrants in Toronto, Canada

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Nov;67(9):1410-22. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.06.012. Epub 2008 Aug 9.


This paper seeks to examine how immigrants in a multicultural society access and utilize culturally- and linguistically-diverse family physicians. It focuses on Mainland Chinese (MLC) immigrants - the most important source of immigrants to Canada since 1996 - in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), Canada. Specifically, the paper aims to explore the choice between Chinese-speaking and non-Chinese-speaking family physicians by MLC immigrants and to determine the underlying reasons for MLC immigrants use of ethnically- and linguistically-matched family physicians. A wide range of data are analyzed including survey and focus group data, physician data from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) and geo-referenced 2001 Canadian Census data. A mixed-method approach is employed combining quantitative analysis of survey data and Census data, spatial analysis of patient travel behaviour based on the survey and qualitative analysis based on focus groups. The paper reveals an overwhelming preference among MLC survey respondents for Chinese-speaking family physicians regardless of study areas and socioeconomic and demographic status. The focus groups suggest that language, culture and ethnicity are intertwined in a complex way to influence the choice of health care providers and health management strategies in the host society. The paper yields important policy implications for identifying health professional shortage areas for culturally-diverse populations, addressing issues related to foreign-trained physicians and enhancing primary care delivery relevant for immigrant populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • China / ethnology
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ontario
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires