Babies born to non-refugee immigrant mothers in Ontario’s poorest neighborhoods have a lower risk of death or serious illness than babies born to Canadian-born mothers. This information was revealed in a survey recently published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Canada. News Megan Diller – CTV News.
Immigrant status and living in low-income neighborhoods are both associated with this adverse condition of newborns. White researchers from the University of Toronto and the Clinical Evaluative Science Institute and North Carolina-Chapel Hill, two hospitals in Toronto, wrote the report.
While previous studies have looked at the risk of adverse outcomes for newborns in low- and high-income neighborhoods, the researchers of the current study say that previous studies have not looked at the comparative risk of newborns of immigrant and nonimmigrant mothers living in similar low-income neighborhoods.
“Efforts must be made to improve the well-being and overall health of all women living in low-income areas and to reduce adverse birth outcomes for immigrant and nonimmigrant mothers equally,” wrote Jennifer Jayaram, co-author of the paper.
Researchers analyzed data from all live singleton babies born in hospitals between 20 and 42 weeks’ gestation in Ontario between 2002 and 2019 to compare the risk of neonatal serious illness and death of immigrant and non-immigrant mothers.
They wrote that 53 percent of female immigrants to Canada landed in Ontario.
The researchers measured the incidence of severe neonatal morbidity and mortality by examining factors such as neonatal respiratory support, intravenous fluids, delivery before 32 weeks’ gestation, very low birth weight, and respiratory distress.
During the study period, 312,124 midwives aged 15 and older living in low-income neighborhoods in urban areas gave birth to 414,241 singletons. During that time, 148,050 of all live newborns were born to immigrant mothers in Canada. And 266,191 babies were born to Canadian-born mothers. The majority of migrant mothers come from South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific region and have lived in the country for less than 10 years.
Jayaram and her team found that newborns of immigrant women had a significantly lower risk of serious illness or death than newborns of Canadian-born women. 49.7 and 65.6 per 1,000 live births respectively.
They say that the relative risk also depends on the country of birth of the expectant mother. Mothers from Jamaica and Ghana and mothers who have lived in Ontario for long periods of time have a higher risk of neonatal morbidity and mortality.
The ‘Healthy Immigrant Effect’
Rather than suggesting that immigrant mothers and newborns are receiving better care than Canadian-born mothers and babies, the paper’s authors suggest that their findings may be explained by a “healthier immigrant” effect.
Dr. St. Michael’s Hospital and one of the co-authors of the study. Joel Roy writes, “Women who are healthy and in more stable health are most able to migrate; Healthy migrants are given priority in the host country’s immigration policy.” He added that, “Ironically, immigrants face many barriers to access to health care.” According to the researchers, the “healthy immigrant” effect diminishes the longer an immigrant lives in a new country. Another explanation for the researchers is that some immigrants have higher net incomes, educational qualifications, and health knowledge than others in low-income neighborhoods.