Ryerson University

Ryerson University

January 18, 2007 11:03 ET

Ryerson University: More Competition For Chinese-Speaking Doctors In Toronto

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Jan. 18, 2007) - If you are a Chinese immigrant seeking a Chinese-speaking family physician, you'll face more competition if you live in Scarborough or downtown Toronto, says a Ryerson University economic geography professor.

Chinese immigrants make up six per cent of Toronto's total population of 4.7 million, making them one of the largest immigrant populations in the city. "Having access to physicians who speak Chinese and have some cultural understanding of their health traditions and beliefs plays an important role in the quality of their life," says Lu Wang of the Department of Geography. She authored a study, which looked at the accessibility to Chinese-speaking doctors in the Toronto census metropolitan area by immigrants from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Drawing on findings of a survey of over 300 Toronto-based Chinese immigrants' preferences for ethnically- and dialectically-matched physicians, Wang analysed 2005 physician data from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ontario to determine where Chinese-speaking physicians were located in the Greater Toronto Area. She also used 2001 Canadian census data to pinpoint the concentrations of Chinese immigrants living in those same areas. Wang then used spatial interaction models and geographical information systems to combine this data as well as city transportation data to determine which areas provided Chinese newcomers with the greatest access to Chinese-speaking physicians and which were the most under-serviced.

Wang found that there is a certain degree of "spatial mismatch" between immigrant healthcare demand and the supply of culturally diverse physicians. For example, relatively small Chinese immigrant communities (e.g., Aurora and Brampton) are well serviced by Chinese-speaking physicians. Conversely, Chinese immigrants who live in high populated areas, such as in Scarborough, North York and downtown Toronto, have greater access to family physicians but poorer access to Chinese-speaking physicians because there are fewer located there and as a result, there is increased competition.

"This study points to the need for Canada's healthcare system to recognize cultural and language barriers immigrants face when seeking primary care physicians who understand their beliefs and values unique to their ethnicity," says Wang. "We need to better address issues relating to training and licensing of foreign-trained physicians. Doctors also need to enhance their own cultural understanding of patients from diverse backgrounds."

The study, partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, was published in December online in the journal Health and Place.

Contact Information

  • Ryerson University
    Lu Wang
    Department of Geography
    (416) 979-5000 x 2689
    Email: luwang@ryerson.ca
    Ryerson University
    Suelan Toye
    Public Affairs
    (416) 979-5000 x 7161
    Email: stoye@ryerson.ca