Toronto's 2-1-1 Healthcare Services for Immigrant Populations
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BACKGROUND: Although access to information on health services is particularly important for recent immigrants, numerous studies have shown that their use of information and referral services is limited. This study explores the role played by 2-1-1 Toronto in supporting recent immigrants. PURPOSE: The study objectives were to (1) understand whether 2-1-1 Toronto is reaching and supporting recent immigrants and (2) gain a better appreciation of the information needs of this population group. METHODS: A phone survey was conducted in 2005-2006 to collect information on 2-1-1 users' characteristics and levels of satisfaction. Survey data were compared (in 2006) with census data to assess their representativeness. To achieve Objective 2, semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted and analyzed in 2006-2007, with a subset of Spanish-speaking callers. RESULTS: Recent immigrants were overrepresented among 2-1-1 callers. However, the survey population was substantially younger and had higher levels of formal education than the general population. Health-related queries represented almost one third of the total. The survey showed very high levels of satisfaction with the service. Many interviewees described their first experiences with the Canadian healthcare system negatively. Most of them had relied on disjointed, low-quality information sources. They trusted 2-1-1 but had discovered it late. CONCLUSIONS: Results are mixed in terms of 2-1-1's support to immigrants. A significant percentage of users do not take full advantage of the service. The service could become the information "entry point" for recent immigrants if it was able to reach them early in the resettlement process. Proactive, community-oriented work and a more creative use of technology could help.
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