Promoting Immigrant Health through Language InstructionJune 17, 2013
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) in collaboration with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board are currently undertaking a special project to promote health among newcomers in English as a Second Language (ESL) schools.
A “healthy immigrant effect” has been observed in Canada, according to which immigrants arrive in relatively good health but over time, their health declines as they adopt unhealthy habits, such as increased consumption of junk food and lack of exercise. It has been shown that refugees, low-income immigrants and recent non-European immigrants are at increased risk of “transitioning to poorer health” (see “Migration and health in Canada: health in the global village”, Gushulak et al., 2011). Newcomers, notably refugees, temporary residents and those living on low incomes, face multiple barriers that impact their health, such as language, cultural differences, social isolation, poverty, unstable housing and unemployment. They often have difficulty navigating the health and social system and accessing services and programs they need.
ESL/LINC schools enable newcomers to acquire the linguistic and communicative competences necessary for a full integration into their new society and offer a unique opportunity to engage them in health promotion activities. The ultimate project goal is to reduce health inequities while increasing newcomers’ access to health promotion information, programs and services. In collaboration with OPH staff, a team of ESL/LINC instructors from the broader Ottawa community of language providers will develop teaching plans and materials on key health promotion topics for newcomers. The focus will be on healthy eating and active living, using a comprehensive health promotion approach. Based on best practices from the public health and education sectors, the final products will be interactive, relevant for students, and matched with the appropriate language level of each class. The resulting teaching plans, along with a list of resources available, will be shared with ESL instructors in different forums and posted on the OPH website and other online platforms used by ESL/LINC instructors and other frontline workers. This will facilitate use of consistent, up-to-date health promotion materials by all ESL/LINC organizations in Ottawa.
For more information contact: Marcela Tapia, Ottawa Public Health: Marcela.Tapia@ottawa.ca, Shirley Graham, Ottawa- Carleton District School Board: firstname.lastname@example.org, Abai Coker, Ottawa Catholic School Board: Abai.Coker@ocsb.ca.