International students and their accessibility to on-campus healthcare services


  • Dillon Lee Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta
  • Lisa Guirguis Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta



Background: There is limited information on international students’ experiences and access to the Canadian healthcare system at the University of Alberta.

Objective: The main objective of this research project is to characterize the experiences of international students navigating on-campus healthcare resources at the University of Alberta from multiple perspectives (e.g., international students, healthcare providers, student advisors) and determine factors that influence it, including knowledge, attitudes, and perceived barriers.

Methods: This exploratory, descriptive study employed a mixed-method approach to produce qualitative and quantitative data. Through snowball sampling, starting with targeted contacts from the International Student Centre (ISC), interviews were held using a semi-structured interview guide. Interview data was explored using thematic analysis. A 44-item survey was developed to measure the University of Alberta specific experiences including: help-seeking preferences, perceived cultural barriers, and attitudes towards using on-campus health resources. A descriptive analysis was used to characterize the data.

Results: Results draw from nine interviews with international students, on-campus healthcare providers, and ISC advisors in addition to 59 survey responses from international students. The study determined three categories associated with international students: the Gatekeeper healthcare system, insurance imperatives, and the unique challenges with medications. Quantitative findings support the categories. For example, more than 50% of students were not knowledgeable about the Canadian healthcare system.

Conclusions: Explaining the values and the structure of Canada’s healthcare system is a crucial step in ensuring international students’ access to healthcare services, as well as reconciling their expectations and realities of publicly funded healthcare of Canada. The University of Alberta should support initiatives that better help international students to explore the Canadian healthcare system.

Support: University of Alberta Undergraduate Research Initiative (URI) and Social Sustainability Research Award.


Additional Files





Health Sciences