The Great Immigrant Health Crisis

More and more newcomers are likely to develop serious diseases due to unhealthy Canadian foods

Immigrant Health CrisisImmigration doesn’t simply mean human displacement from one part of the world to another. On a personal level, it also means a complete system shock to one’s physical and emotional health — hence requiring a lot of acclimatization, so to speak.

And if other issues aren’t already enough to worry a newcomer, there’s growing evidence that something much overlooked is equally reaching an alarming level than your regular, run-of-the-mill ‘settlement’ or ’employment’ factors, something that is more damaging and costly in the long run: Health.

The Newcomer’s Diet Shock

‘Traditional’ North American diet (whatever that really means) has always been derided and attributed to so many health shocks to newcomers and anyone not accustomed to it. I don’t really know what they exactly mean by North American Diet, to be honest. Does it only mean Fast Food Culture or industrially produced Processed Food Invasion? Or is there something truly ‘traditional’ about the new world other than corn-fed red meat or industrially ‘manufactured’ TV dinners?

According to the study by ICES, the longer immigrants stay in Canada, the more likely they are to develop life-threatening ailments like cardiovascular diseases.

Is this really surprising to most newcomers? Not to me at least.

Love at first glance

For starters, the junk-food laden, processed ‘food’ filled, preservative infested packaged goodies in supermarket aisles, at first glance, look like manna from heaven to any newcomer.

Secondly, the apparent cheapness of such ‘food’: the variety of it, the ubiquity of it, the availability and the ease of so called convenience food is simply too attractive to ignore for immigrants who are more focussed on their financial stability and economic settlement than diet.

Not so fast

Canadian Immigration is heavily economic in nature. That means most people who come here are from less economically developed countries.

But that doesn’t mean they are from less ‘nutritionally’ developed cuisine cultures as well!

Some of the healthiest and most mind-body conscious cuisines are from some of the most least developed countries in the world, where a huge bulk of immigrants comes from.

Those immigrants may naively mistake as ‘goodness’ the cheapness of the unhealthy North American fast-food and processed ready-made supermarket ‘foods’ (claimed boldly and unreservedly on the packaging.) Especially their offspring, if not all newcomers.

Prevention First – The Best Policy

And therein lies the rub, as Shakespeare would say.

The apparent ‘development’ of Canadian food culture, especially the modern North American culinary culture (a dangerous introduction to any diet, in my opinion), is also the very cause of harmful-development to the very people who are most likely enticed by it all – ie, the immigrants.

And that will continue to haunt the policy wonks and healthcare systems around the country.

Cure the disease, not the symptoms, stupid!

What provincial/federal governments need to realize is that in addition to worrying much about reactionary palliative health care costs, a lot needs also be spent on preventive health care, something like regulating the junk/fast/processed food industry and encouraging natural, healthy foods.

All that, alas, is just a pipe-dream against the Big Food and big corporate giants who are having the time of their lives. And I remain cynical, as always.

First Published: March 18th, 2012


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