Encouraging understanding or increasing prejudices: A cross-sectional survey of institutional influence on health personnel attitudes about refugee claimants’ access to health care

Rousseau, C.; Oulhote, Y.; Ruiz-Casares, M.; Cleveland, J.; Greenaway, C. (2014)

Plos one

12(2) | On line


This paper investigates the personal, professional and institutional predictors of health institution personnel’s attitudes regarding access to healthcare for refugee claimants in Canada.


In Montreal, the staff of five hospitals and two primary care centres (n = 1772) completed an online questionnaire documenting demographics, occupation, exposure to refugee claimant patients, and attitudes regarding healthcare access for refugee claimants. We used structural equations modeling to investigate the associations between professional and institutional factors with latent functions of positive and negative attitudes toward refugee’s access to healthcare.


Younger participants, social workers, participants from primary care centres, and from 1st migrant generation had the lowest scores of negative attitudes. Respondents who experienced contact with refugees had lower scores of negative attitudes (B = -14% standard deviation [SD]; 95% CI: -24, -4%). However, direct contact with refugees increased scores of negative attitudes in the institution with the most negative attitudes by 36% SD (95% CI: 1, 71%).


Findings suggest that institutions influence individuals’ attitudes about refugee claimants’ access to health care and that, in an institutional context of negative attitudes, contact with refugees may further confirm negative perceptions about this vulnerable group.