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Comparative Study
, 43 (10), 1043-1058

Chronic Health Disparities Among Refugee and Immigrant Children in Canada

Comparative Study

Chronic Health Disparities Among Refugee and Immigrant Children in Canada

Ginny Lane et al. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab.


There are knowledge gaps in our understanding of the development of chronic disease risks in children, especially with regard to the risk differentials experienced by immigrants and refugees. The Healthy Immigrant Children study employed a mixed-methods cross-sectional study design to characterize the health and nutritional status of 300 immigrant and refugee children aged 3-13 years who had been in Canada for less than 5 years. Quantitative data regarding socioeconomic status, food security, physical activity, diet, and bone and body composition and anthropometric measurements were collected. Qualitative data regarding their experiences with accessing health care and their family lifestyle habits were gathered through in-depth interviews with the parents of newcomer children. Many newcomers spoke about their struggles to attain their desired standard of living. Regarding health outcomes, significantly more refugees (23%) had stunted growth when compared with immigrants (5%). Older children, those with better-educated parents, and those who consumed a poorer-quality diet were at a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Sixty percent of refugees and 42% of immigrants had high blood cholesterol. Significant health concerns for refugee children include stunting and high blood cholesterol levels, and emerging trends indicate that older immigrant children from privileged backgrounds in low-income countries may be more at risk of overweight and obesity. A variety of pathways related to their families' conceptualization of life in Canada and the social structures that limit progress to meeting their goals likely influence the development of health inequity among refugee and immigrant children. Public health initiatives should address these health inequities among newcomer families.

Keywords: children; chronic disease; enfants; health; immigrant; immigrants; maladies chroniques; nutrition; refugee; réfugiés; santé.

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