New perspectives on Chinese immigrants’ experiences under the New Zealand Healthcare System: a qualitative descriptive study
This research sought to explore the life experiences of Chinese immigrants interacting with the New Zealand healthcare systems; in particular identifying potential difficulties and barriers in accessing and utilising local healthcare services. A qualitative descriptive methodology was employed. Data was collected via surveys, of 38 Chinese immigrants, aged 30 to 55 years who originated from Mainland China, and semi-structured in-depth interviews with 7 survey participants. Based on data generated from Chinese immigrants’ personal encounters in the process of receiving healthcare services and making healthcare-related decisions, a systematic comparative analysis revealed three core findings. The first major barrier identified towards the effective access and utilisation of New Zealand healthcare services by Chinese immigrants’ lies with the differences that exist between healthcare systems in New Zealand and China. Distinctive disparities between the healthcare system structure and standards of healthcare practice caused misalignment between immigrants’ expectations in the process of receiving healthcare services and the outcomes of such process. The second barrier arose from communication difficulties between Chinese immigrants and New Zealand healthcare practitioners due to language proficiency, and more importantly, conceptual misunderstandings. In this aspect, New Zealand healthcare practitioners do not seem to fully appreciate the Chinese immigrants’ philosophy of health and their healthcare needs; nor do the Chinese immigrants adequately understand how New Zealand healthcare practitioners are trained to provide appropriate care to patients. The third major barrier stems from the lack of Chinese cultural understanding by the New Zealand healthcare industry. While the New Zealand healthcare system is devoted to the recognition and assurance of cultural sensitivity in policy, it appears that such vision has not been effectively translated into cultural understanding at an operational level. With a rapidly growing Chinese immigrant population in New Zealand and around the world, this study has highlighted the importance of understanding the characteristics of Chinese immigrants in terms of healthcare awareness, attitudes and decision-making process; along with implications for effectively engaging the Chinese immigrant population in the healthcare systems at their destinations of migration.