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Helping providers help kids new to Canada

Toronto, July 21, 2015

By Melissa Di Costanzo

Le Roi Chijioke Agu shares a smile with Dr. Tony Barozzino
Le Roi Chijioke Agu, 3, shares a smile with pediatrician Dr. Tony Barozzino. Dr. Barozzino co-edited a new website called Caring for Kids New to Canada. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

As a pediatrician at an inner-city hospital, 30 to 40 per cent of Dr. Tony Barozzino’s patients are immigrants or refugees.

Many of these newcomers face unique health concerns, including infections, chronic diseases and mental health issues, having fled war-torn countries or regions experiencing political strife. Children, especially, experience their own set of challenges, such as poor nutrition and oral care.

Dr. Barozzino, a St. Michael’s pediatrician who has been practising in Toronto for more than 25 years, sees these patients every day.

But many physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners might see them once a month (or much less), which is why the Canadian Pediatric Society and Citizenship and Immigration Canada asked Dr. Barozzino to co-create and co-edit a website with free, up-to-date and accessible information that would help health-care providers best care for immigrant and refugee children and families.

www.KidsNewtoCanada.ca launched in April 2013.

“It’s a resource that’s meant for all clinicians, but particularly those who may not come across immigrant and refugee youth and families as often as we do in the downtown core,” said Dr. Barozzino, who was chief of St. Michael’s Pediatric Department from 2001 to 2012. “Immigrants and refugees typically tend to settle in cities, but that’s not to say health-care professionals across the country – in small and large cities and towns – don’t encounter this at-risk population.”

  Did you know...
  • Risk factors for depression in young newcomers to Canada include: loss of family and friends, parents who have difficulty speaking English or French, discrimination, poor home or school relationships and living in a poor quality neighbourhood.

  • Malnutrition is common among new refugees, internationally adopted children and, to a lesser degree, immigrant children.

  • Substance use disorders are less common in immigrant youth than in their Canadian-born peers. The risk of developing a substance use disorder seems to increase with time spent in Canada and level of acculturation.

  • Oral health and dental care are unmet needs of young newcomers to Canada.
Info from KidsNewtoCanada.ca

The website (available in French or English) provides evidence-based information ranging from medical conditions such as malaria and Chagas disease to community resources. It provides guidance to health-care providers about how to be sensitive to differences in patients’ backgrounds. There’s also a section devoted to advocacy for immigrant and refugee health needs.

Say a doctor in Whitehorse had an appointment with a family from Syria – a rare occurrence. One of the children, a five-year-old boy, coughed, had a fever and clutched his stomach in pain. The doctor could go to the website and click on these three symptoms (there are 13 listed in total). Up pops a list of results ranging from a roundworm infection to viral gastroenteritis: possibilities for the physician to consider before making a diagnosis, including diseases he or she may not see often in his or her community, such as Dengue fever.

“The website is like a one-stop shop to help ensure these vulnerable children, youth and families receive the best care possible,” said Dr. Barozzino.

It has been incorporated into Canadian medical school curriculums and accessed by people in Australia, Europe and the United States. Although it contains Canada-specific information, Dr. Barozzino said he hoped the website’s scope would continue to spread internationally.

“Across Canada – indeed, across the world – it’s good to have a tool like this to call upon.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.