5 min read
17 November 2021

New report finds newcomers’ wellness is lagging behind and integrated care is urgently needed to improve it

The report features WoodGreen Community Services’ Inter-Professional Care Program, a first-of-its-kind in Toronto integrated care model for newcomers, and there are calls to urgently expand it.

Toronto, Ont. - As Canada plans to welcome over 1.2 million newcomers in the next three years, a new report says urgent action is needed to stop newcomers from falling through the cracks of the country’s care systems and a new model of integrated care could be a solution.

WoodGreen Community Services’ Resettling Health and Wellness: The Value of Integrated Newcomer Care report provides a roadmap for policymakers on how to make integrated care — an approach that puts the client at the centre and builds a complement of services around their needs — a reality for newcomers. The report highlights WoodGreen’s Inter-Professional Care (IPC) program, a one-stop-shop integrated care program in Toronto, which connects patients with a primary health care professional and a settlement counsellor. The program is a first-of-its-kind in Toronto and gives patients access not only to health care, but to other support such as language services, housing assistance, or help with getting government benefits.

“There are huge gaps in our current care systems and newcomers are falling through them,” said Mohan Doss, WoodGreen’s Director of Newcomer and Youth Wellness Program. “Integrated care programs like WoodGreen’s Inter-Professional Care Program not only can close these gaps and improve newcomers’ health and well-being, but they’re also cost-effective. They are a win-win.”

On average, newcomers come to Canada in better health than the general population. However, their health and wellness tend to rapidly decline during the settlement process due to the social determinants of health (the conditions in which people are born, live, work and/or age, and the broader economic, social, and political forces that shape the conditions of their daily life). Many of WoodGreen’s newcomer clients do not have secure housing, access to healthcare, and/or have enough to eat. The cost of this was evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic. While newcomers make up just over 25 per cent of Ontario’s population, they have accounted for 43.5 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in the province.

Even more, in Canada, settlement services and health care services operate in silos. Settlement services are mostly funded by the federal government and are provided by local organizations, with funding tied to a person’s immigration status rather than their life situation. Meanwhile, healthcare is funded and provided by the provincial government. This creates dangerous gaps in services for newcomers.

“The first thing that I faced as a newcomer was that information about various types of programs and services was scattered everywhere. I had no clue about what kinds of assistance were available to me — I didn’t know what to do,” said Farzana Leema, a former IPC program client. “Thanks to the IPC program, I was able to get the help I needed to improve my life.”

The IPC program model can help to eliminate service gaps. First, it improves the quality and experience of newcomer care by making the system easier to navigate and improving the continuation of services. Secondly, it improves newcomer health and wellness by addressing the whole person, including tackling the social determinants of health. Third, it prevents burnout amongst care professionals. And, lastly, it improves the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of care systems by breaking down silos between health, settlement services and other services.

“As a primary care physician, I have seen firsthand the positive impact integrated care has had on the health and well-being of my clients by improving access to the care they really need,” said Dr. Catherine Yu of the East Toronto Family Practice Network and Health Access Thorncliffe Park.“There are so many benefits to taking an integrated approach to health and settlement, especially since it reduces the number of clients who fall through the cracks or end up in the ER, after struggling to navigate Toronto’s systems of care. One can only imagine the impact this approach can have on a broader scale.”

The success of the IPC model is reliant on many partnerships, notably working with member organizations of the East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP). These partnerships have played an important role in helping to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, by bringing COVID-19 testing services to the Crescent Town community in Toronto, WoodGreen’s IPC team, working alongside ETHP members, was able to test 410 people in only eight days, finding seven positive cases that would have otherwise gone undetected and spread throughout the community.

Even more, COVID-19 has shown how important it is for communities and care systems to be resilient. Stronger and more resilient care systems and communities are better able to cope, respond, and adapt to new challenges and crises such as the current pandemic. They are also able to quickly come together to act as one and collaborate across disciplines and sectors towards a common goal.

Integrated care is an important tool in helping newcomer communities and care systems to be ready for when the next crisis hits, which makes the need for it even more urgent.

“When newcomers thrive, we all thrive,” said Doss. “Through integrated care, we can give all newcomers the chance to live their best lives in their new country. All we need now is for policymakers to make this kind of care a reality. There’s no time to waste.”

To learn more about the Resettling Health and Wellness: The Value of Integrated Newcomer Care report, please visit woodgreen.org/IntegratedCareReport.

ABOUT WOODGREEN COMMUNITY SERVICES (woodgreen.org): WoodGreen is one of the largest social service agencies in Toronto, serving 37,000 people each year. We offer over 75 programs and services tackling the social determinants that affect the health and well-being of individuals in our community.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Jen Mayville, Marketing & Communications Manager; [email protected]; (437) 226-8091 (cell)