Genevieve Armstrong a PhD candidate at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing is a recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship, a prestigious and competitive funding competition for researchers across the country.
The $40,000 grant will support Armstrong’s research examining access to tuberculosis (TB) care for migrants with precarious immigration status in Canada.
“I’ve witnessed the challenges of migration and the influence it can have on a person’s health,” says Armstrong. “That has spurred my passion to shed light on TB as not only a medical disease but as a social disease, one that requires a shift in policy.”
With the support of the fellowship, Armstrong will be conducting a study to assess and compare policies on TB care as well as provincial insurance plans in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, provinces that traditionally have higher rates of immigration. Migrants with precarious immigration status, Armstrong argues, face unique barriers to accessing appropriate and timely TB care including prevention and treatment, often because of fear of deportation and financial debt.
The physical and social impacts of delayed TB treatment are also significant. While the disease typically affects the lungs, it can also spread to other parts of the body. There is also a stigma associated with the disease because an infected individual is required to be in isolation, while in many cultures, TB is viewed as a disease of the poor.
Migrants to Canada are tested for active TB before being allowed entry into the country, but Armstrong notes an individual could have a latent infection, where the disease lies dormant, and the stress of migration coupled with integrating into society, can lead to a resurfacing of the infection.
Armstrong’s research further supports Canada’s goal of eradicating TB by the year 2030, something she says is a possibility if governments and policy makers seek to address the inequities faced by those needing TB care.
“TB has long been a neglected disease though it is treatable and preventable,” says Armstrong. “There is no reason that we cannot eradicate it by 2030 with sound and equitable policy that promotes the health of all.”