Anglophones, immigrants in worse health than francophones in the Eastern Townships

When it comes to their health and well-being, anglophones and immigrants living in the Eastern Townships are worse off than their francophone neighbours, according to a new report.

Public health office says services need to be better tailored to meet needs of both communities

Students at English schools are more likely to drink sugary drinks every day and have more cavities than their French counterparts, a new report has found. (Associated Press)

When it comes to their health and well-being, anglophones and immigrants living in the Eastern Townships are worse off than their francophone neighbours, according to a new report.

The region's public health office looked into the health of the area's 30,000 anglophones and 20,000 immigrants, who form 10 per cent of its population.

The report details concerns in areas including physical and intellectual development, dental hygiene, nutrition, mental health, access to family doctors, and exposure to physical violence.

Social concerns including income, education and access to social services are also highlighted.

Key findings regarding the anglophone community include:

  • Anglophone residents aged 18 to 39 are at a disadvantage in terms of education and income compared to francophones in the same age group.
  • Anglophone children of kindergarten age are almost twice as vulnerable to issues in one or more developmental areas like social skills and communication abilities (46 per cent compared to 25 per cent of francophones).
  • A third of kindergartners who attend English schools have cavities, versus 25 per cent in French schools. Among second graders, 63 per cent of English students have cavities compared to 56 per cent of francophone students.
  • A third of English high school students consume sugary drinks, chips and candy every day. Only 24 per cent of French students do the same.
  • Six in 10 students who attend high school in English report being victims of violence at school or on the way to school, or victims of cyberbullying.
  • While 86 per cent of anglophone residents have a family doctor, many report barriers including doctors who only speak French and documents that are only in French.

Key findings among immigrant communities include:

  • While more recent immigrants attended university, they are at a greater disadvantage in terms of employment, income and home-ownership than people born in Canada.
  • 35 per cent of immigrant children are vulnerable in one of more developmental area, particularly in the areas of cognitive and language development.
  • Immigrants have less access to social and health services. Only 66 per cent have a family doctor, while 82 per cent of people born in Canada have one.
  • A quarter of refugees report stress and anxiety.

The report makes a number of recommendations, which include training health professionals to provide better services in English and supporting more research on health and access to health care in the region's linguistic and cultural communities.

''It's normal for anglophones to prefer, especially in matters of mental health, speaking to a health professional who is comfortable in English,'' Dr. Mélissa Généreux, public health director for the Estrie region, told CBC News.

''Having more websites translated would also be a plus, especially with a health-care system that's becoming more and more complex.''

The report said the concerned communities to be better mobilized to take advantage of the region's health "assets."

The Townshippers Association, a non-profit group representing the region's English-speaking community, welcomed the report.

In a news release, Rachel Hunting, the group's executive director,  said it gives additional weight to efforts in the region to improve access to and the adaptation of health services to local needs.

"It is very encouraging to have the public health partner in our region produce a volume of research and statistics that compliment and corroborate details that have long been known," she said.