TWU researcher seeks to improve health care outcomes for Chinese immigrants

Immigrant populations have health care needs that are different from the mainstream population, a new study seeks to show. A Vancouver researcher advocates for health care providers to “do more” to improve health care outcomes for Chinese and immigrant populations in BC. 

Trinity Western University’s Dr. Tina Wu, PhD, RSW, RCC, is researching the health care needs of Chinese immigrants in BC through a public survey open now until the end of September.

She hopes that her research may present one more piece of evidence to support the need for increased health care support for immigrant populations, particularly the Chinese community.

Dr. Wu believes that the health care needs of immigrants are different from those of the mainstream population. Moreover, she believes that “more needs to be done” to serve immigrant populations, over and above hospital and clinic translation services.

“It’s not just language,” she says, “If doctors want to meet the needs of a diverse community, they need to do more.”

For health care providers, doing more may include taking the time to build relationships of trust with their Chinese patients.

Dr. Wu’s research is funded by British Columbia Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN).
Her research will be conducted alongside 15 expert consultants, as well as two patient partners who are older generation immigrants that have gone through the Canadian healthcare system.

The co-investigator is Dr. Rick Sawatzky, PhD, RN, Canada Research Chair in Person-Centred Outcomes and TWU Professor of Nursing. Dr. Bruno Zumbo, who holds the Paragon UBC Professorship in Psychometrics and Measurement, is another principal investigator.

Measuring health care outcomes

Dr. Wu’s research looks at people from different dimensions through the VR-12 patient-reported global health measurement tool. The VR-12 tool surveys patients to detect the quality of their health.

She will compare the data from the immigrant population against those of the mainstream to discover whether the Chinese community’s health care needs are indeed distinct.

Western vs. Chinese health care approaches

“Western medicine tends to treat symptoms,” Dr. Wu observes. For the Chinese community, however, seeking health care is also a matter of “building relationships of trust” with their health care providers first.

“To the Chinese, health is a holistic concept. An individual in good health is an individual who has a balanced life physically and emotionally – both internally and externally.”

“For Chinese people, when they go to see the doctor, they want to make the bond. They want to make a connection with the doctor,” she says.

With trust comes increased compliance and follow through, and therefore the potential for more effective patient treatment and better outcomes, she says.

Yet, building trust requires time, and has implications for health care delivery.

“In BC, ‘fee for service’ is the payment principle for healthcare providers. It requires the providers to be efficient, that is, time is payment. More patients are equivalent to more payment.” 

“But you need to spend more time to connect with patients if you want to provide quality care,” Dr. Wu argues, “It’s very well documented in the field.”

“Chinese people are ‘guan xi’ related,” she explains. “It’s the connection. Relationship is very important for the Chinese community.”

Research hampered by COVID-19

In light of COVID-19 risks and restrictions such as social distancing, Dr. Wu has faced significant obstacles to her research.

Although personal connection is really important for Chinese immigrants, Dr. Wu has been extremely cautious about in-person visits since the pandemic.

She is particularly concerned about the risks of visiting elderly research participants, “I cannot go out right now [to see them]. I cannot connect with them in person.”

To recruit survey participants, Dr. Wu has reached out to many immigrant and social service organizations in Metro Vancouver, including Coquitlam and Burnaby. Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, however, the help these groups could offer is limited.

Dr. Wu’s research was originally set to begin in May. With the added challenges of COVID-19, she now has until the end of September to complete data collection.

She is seeking 300 hundred participants to answer a 10-20-minute health care survey. Anyone who can read Chinese (traditional or simplified) is eligible to participate.

Dr. Wu’s desire is to advocate for the Chinese community from her unique vantage point of having  gone through the experience of being a Chinese immigrant and also having received professional training from North America.

“I’m going to use whatever I have in me to speak on behalf of the community,” she says.

Dr. Wu has 10 years’ experience as an Associate Professor and Director of the Healthcare Stream in the Master of Arts in Leadership Program at Trinity Western University. She teaches students at both TWU’s Richmond and Langley campuses.

To participate in the Survey on Chinese Immigrants' Health Care Needs, please see the links below:

Simplified Chinese / 简体中文链接
Traditional Chinese / 繁體中文鏈接 

Your survey information is strictly confidential. Please feel free to contact Dr. Tina Wu if you have any questions (email: or Phone: 604-788-5950). Thank you for being a significant part of this research.  

See also: 

Richmond News featured this story, as well as Sing Tao Daily news.


About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to find and fulfill their purpose in life. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vibrant faith community devoted to supporting vibrant leaders seeking to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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