Strengthening Health Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, and Newcomers in Greater Vancouver through Cross Cultural Health Brokers:

Grassroots Innovation to Meet Community Need



This project was borne out of the recognition of the productive intersection between solutions for optimizing the healthcare training, experience, and abilities of newcomers to Canada, the current constricted health human resource environment in British Columbia, and our social commitment to provide appropriate access to healthcare for all residents, including those who have immigrated or arrived as refugees.

We set out to better understand and document an innovative model of employing Internationally Trained Health Professionals as Cross Cultural Health Brokers (CCHBs) to provide culturally competent and appropriate care to immigrants, refugees, and newcomers to Canada at the Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op (UMHC). At UMHC, Cross Cultural Health Brokers (CCHBs) are defined as bilingual/bicultural health workers who bridge language and cultural barriers to support the care of immigrants, refugees, and newcomers to Canada. CCHBs assist patients and participants from their communities in accessing medical services, social services, and health promotion activities while supporting the relationship between patients and family doctors.

Initial contact with the Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op by the principal investigator (JK) in the summer of 2023 ignited a curiosity about the productive use of newcomer professional healthcare experience and harnessing this resource to meet population level need, juxtaposed with the relative anonymity of the model of cross cultural health brokerage, from a health systems perspective. Given the human resource challenges that currently besiege healthcare in Canada, there is a social responsibility to scale up models that appear to be effective, which requires a close examination of the model itself. As leaders at the UMHC expressed in an initial meeting that they are drastically under-resourced to meet community need, it was concluded that advocacy for additional resources required, as a starting place, data on its efficacy in both serving the target population and using to capacity the resources of healthcare professionals trained in other jurisdictions.

To this end, the goal of this project is to describe and document the role of Cross Cultural Health Brokers in increasing access to culturally appropriate healthcare for immigrants, refugees, and newcomers to Canada. Specific objectives include understanding and documenting:

  • The role internally trained healthcare provider (ITHP)-based CCHBs play in facilitating access to healthcare for new Canadians by documenting activities and approaches;
  • The impact of this facilitation from a patient perspective, including likely courses of action if the CCHB was not available;
  • The motivation and satisfaction of ITHPs who undertake role; and,
  • Investigating a systematic approach to better utilize the untapped resource of internationally trained healthcare providers.

Anecdotal and observational evidence through UMHC already attest to the efficacy of this model. By rigorously documenting impact and satisfaction for both care providers and patients, we can contribute to an emerging evidence base that can lead to better use of existing resources (ITHPs) to meet the needs of a vulnerable population in a cost-effective way. Aiming to improve healthcare access, this fills a knowledge gap in the community social service sector. The goal is to provide local evidence for health system decision-makers to guide and shape regional and/or provincial decisions. Utilizing the unique insights of ITHP Cross Cultural Healthcare Brokers and immigrant/refugee populations seeking healthcare will enhance the current comprehension of how the social services sector can effectively address increasingly diverse and complex needs.


View our mid-project report here:

Learn More or Participate:

For more information, please contact the Research Coordinator, Audrey Cameron (


Research Team:

Jude Kornelsen, PhD

Associate Professor, Co-Director, Centre for Rural Health Research


Zarghoona Wakil

Executive Director, Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op


Audrey Cameron

Research Coordinator, Centre for Rural Heath Research



The project received a grant from the Social Planning and Research Council (SPARC) of British Columbia, and a supplemental grant from the UBC Community University Engagement Support (CUES) Fund.