This study examines the nature and extent of data and research on the role of race or visible minority status on health in Canada. Visible minorities represent a rapidly growing segment of Canada’s population. Approximately one in five Canadians is a member of a visible minority group. Policy makers and researchers are often unable to answer important questions related to visible minority health such as: Are visible minority Canadians healthier or less healthy than their white counterparts? Do risk factors for health conditions differ for visible minority and white Canadians? And how do different visible minority groups compare with one another on health outcomes and measures? Our review of the existing literature on visible minority health indicates that there is a paucity of data and research on the health of visible minorities in Canada, alone, and in comparison to ‘mainstream’ (white) Canadians. We recommend that there is a need for basic health data for visible minorities. Many current health surveys are severely limited by small sample sizes of visible minorities. We recommend oversampling visible minorities in standard health surveys such as the Canadian Community Health Survey, or conducting targeted health surveys of visible minorities. Surveys should collect information on key sociodemographic characteristics such as nativity, visible minority status, socioeconomic status, and age-at-arrival for immigrants. We also recommend that if data were available, researchers consider an intersectionality approach in their analyses. Intersectionality is a flexible holistic approach that takes into account the multiple factors that may affect a visible minority person’s health, including the role of discrimination based on racial status, immigrant characteristics for foreign-born visible minorities, age and the role of ageism for older adults, socioeconomic status, gender (for visible minority women), and geographic place of residence.

Bibliographic Notes

The brief was written by the authors of this paper.