Healthy Immigrant Children

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General Information

Welcome to Healthy Immigrant Children. This website will provide you with information on healthy immigrant children in Saskatoon, and in Canada. You will also learn about new research being done in this area, and have an exciting opportunity to become involved with this research.

Did you know that 1 of every 6 Canadians were born outside Canada? There is currently over 200 different ethnicities in Canada. In recent years, over 3000 immigrant and refugee children have come to Saskatchewan. It is important to study health and nutrition in all persons in Canada, but especially important for children because they are in a transition period where they are becoming more independent and begin to make their own choices related to food, nutrition and physical activities.

HIC Logo


"Healthy Immigrant Children" (HIC) Study

“What is the nutritional status of newcomer immigrant and refugee children? And, how does it relate to health outcomes?”

We hope to address this overarching question in the project entitled “Healthy Immigrant Children”, also known as the HIC study. In a cross-sectional design, we will take measurements from a sample of newcomer children who have been living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada for no more than 5 years. We chose 5 years, as studies have suggested the greatest change in lifestyle and diet occurs within this 5 year period.

Background Information

Despite the growing number of newcomers including immigrants and refugees in Saskatchewan, little is known about their nutritional and health status and needs. This project will identify the major nutrition and health issues and intervention needs for immigrant and refugee families, especially their children representing a more vulnerable group.

The objective of this research project is to characterize health and nutrition issues that affect immigrant and refugee newcomer children. There will then be a comparison of the impact of income-related household food insecurity on the health and nutrition status of newcomer children to those of Canadian children. In addition, the current support system for immigrants and refugees will be assessed.

Are you interested in finding out how healthy your child is? Your child is eligible to participate if he/she is an immigrant or refugee within the age range of 3-13 years and has been in Canada for 5 years or less.

To register your child, please contact the HIC office at (306) 966-2831 or email at 

Alongside the HIC study, we also have two other exciting projects!   

The Linking Immigrants with Nutrition Knowledge (LINK) Project

The LINK Project offers a unique learning experience to undergraduate nutrition students and newcomer families.  During the project, students are partnered with an immigrant or refugee family. These student-family groups meet over the course of the semester and share about their food cultures and food traditions. Students and newcomer families cooking traditional cultural dishes together and celebrate the wide variety and diversity of healthy cultural foods. The LINK Project benefits both students and newcomer families. Students gain experience in interacting with people from other cultures, begin to understand the challenges faced by newcomers in Canada, and learn to see the important connections between food and culture. In turn, newcomer families gain an understanding of how food and nutrition impact overall health, and learn about the Canadian food culture. The ultimate goal of the LINK Project is to promote healthy ethno-cultural food by creating partnerships and lasting ties of friendship. 

For more information on the LINK project, you may contact Carly at

Voices in Vision Project

Voices in Vision (V in V) is a unique research project that stemmed from the Healthy Immigrant Children study. The purpose of V in V is to qualitatively examine immigrant and refugee youths’ perceptions of their food environments, allowing for insight into the challenges faced by their unique ethno-cultural groups with regards to food. This study will use the Photovoice research technique, which allows participants to express their experiences and perspectives through the use of photography. Photographs will then be displayed in a public setting in order to draw attention to issues identified and potentially stimulate action from policy-makers, nutrition educators, settlement workers, and others in the general public. The opportunity to participate directly in research through the fun aspect of photography will instill value and confidence into youth as their voices are heard throughout the community.

For more information on the V in V project, you may contact Nikole at 

Voices in Vision

About Us

About us

Dr. Hassan Vatanparast, Ginny Lane, Carly Phinney, Scarlett Ewen and Solmaz Setayesghar 

The Research Team


Hassan Vatanparast, MD, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics/Joint Appointment in School of Public Health; and is the Principal Investigator of Healthy Immigrant Children (HIC). His research interests include nutritional epidemiology, community based health promotion, public health nutrition, nutritional assessment and large scale health surveys. This project, HIC, is one of his many ongoing research studies.
Phone: (306) 966-6341 , Email:





Virginia (Ginny) Lane, RD, MA is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Nutrition. She is managing the Regina branch of the Healthy Immigrant Children Study. She has developed community partnerships with the Regina Community Clinic and Regina Open Door Society and is managing the overall implementation of the study in Regina. Ginny has worked in a variety of community development and the health system settings. She has previously worked as a community nutritionist/ outreach worker, and research consultant focused on community health programs. She is currently employed as the Cognitive Disabilities Program Consultant at Saskatchewan Health. Her research interests include sustainable development, food security, chronic diseases, and health promotion with a focus on children and vulnerable populations.
Phone: (306) 787-3862 , Email:




Scarlett Ewen, BSc, MSc is a graduate from the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. She completed her Masters of Science degree in 2012. Scarlett’s research interests include community/public health nutrition, nutrition education, and food security. She is particularly interested and involved with immigrant and refugee research in the areas of health, nutrition and resettlement. Scarlett is passionate in learning new cultures, and has an ultimate goal of building healthy communities as well as working in international research and global health. She is our expert in food security, and is responsible for administering the food security questionnaire. Scarlett also handles both the food frequency and the physical activity questionnaires.




Nikole Janzen is a third-year Nutrition and Dietetics student enrolled in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. Nikole has an interest in international nutrition and food security as well as migration health, and joined the HIC team as a Research Assistant in fall of 2011. Her primary role during the summer of 2012 included the 24-hour dietary recalls with participants and using a dietary analysis computer program to assess the data. She will be training the new research assistants for the summer of 2013.



Carly Phinney is a fourth-year Nutrition and Dietetics student enrolled in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. Carly is interested in public health nutrition, migration health, and the use of culinary skill within the dietetics profession. She has been a part of the HIC team since the spring of 2011 where her role has been to conduct 24-hour dietary recalls and to use dietary analysis software to assess the data. Carly was primarily responsible for the the LINK Project in 2012. Carly will be completing her dietetic internship in the Saskatoon Health Region during the 2012-2013 academic year.




Solmaz Setayeshgar, BSc, MSc is a PhD Candidate in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, and her focus in on public health nutrition. She completed her bachelor and master degrees in nutrition in Iran. Solmaz is involved in various activities with the Healthy Immigrant Study.




Dr. Azita Zerehgar, DDS, MS is a pediatric dentist, and a full-time Assistant Professor of the College of Dentistry. She has dedicated all her enthusiasm and energy over many years in Iran and Canada to teaching, research, clinical experiences and oral health advancement of children and adolescents. In particular, her research interests concern dental public health aspects of dental caries, dental materials in pediatric dentistry, traumatic dental injuries in children, and preventive orthodontics. Currently, she is working on many research projects at the University of Saskatchewan. This study, HIC, is one of her many research projects. She is working on the Oral and Dental Health component of HIC as the co-investigator, and doing the oral and dental examinations as well in an equipped dental field. Email:

Gena Ingold is an undergraduate student in her second year of Nutrition and Dietetics in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. Gena is interested in public health, community nutrition and international development. She joined the team as a Research Assistant in February 2013 and has a role recruiting participants, conducting 24-hour recalls, and taking body and blood measurements.

Caitlin Peiris is a second-year Nutrition and Dietetics student enrolled in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. Caitlin is excited to have joined the HIC team in 2013 as the Project Coordinator. She has a strong interest in community and public health, and in particular the impact that culture has on food choices. In this role, she helps with participant recruitment and coordinates the testing sessions. She also conducts 24-hour dietary recalls, collects anthropometric data, and helps to assess the data. Email:

Other team members include:

Dr. Carol Henry , Email:

Dr. Joe Garcea , Email:

Dr. Stephen Whitehead , Email:

Dr. Li Zong , Email:

If you have any questions or comments, please contact us at (306) 966-2831 or email at

Culture, Migration and Food Security

In addition to the Healthy Immigrant Children study, we are also actively involved with research on food security in immigrant and refugee families. At this page you will find information and news pertaining to our research activities, particularly our recently funded collaborative international project.

The newest press release about this project can be found at this address:

Our current project is one which involves international partners from Canada and Iran. The project is entitled The impact of socio-economic and cultural factors on household food insecurity of refugees: a comparative study of refugees resided in Iran and Canada.

This study provides the opportunity to understand barriers toward integration to the new community and how culture and social integrations affect the food security status of refugees. Socio-economic and cultural determinants will be explored and the results will be used to modify current approaches and/or plan new and specific strategies for improving the food security status, and the overall well-being of refugees living in two countries.

This project will allow us to gain valuable experience in exploring socio-economic and cultural factors affecting food security status of refugees in two different socio-cultural environments: Iran and Canada. With this research, we hope to improve the integration of refugees into Canadian society, which should result in higher socio-economic status, and improve food security status and health outcomes for this vulnerable population.

What is Food Security?
Food security exists when all people at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods that meet their nutritional needs for an active and healthy life.

Why Food Security?
Food insecurity is one of the critical problems influencing the well-being of refugees. Food insecurity has negative social, economic, cultural, psychological and somatic consequences. Accordingly, food insecurity is one of the critical problems influencing the health and well-being of vulnerable populations such as refugee newcomers who are faced with resettlement in a new environment where socio-economic and cultural determinants may facilitate or hinder the adjustment.

Why Afghan Refugees?
Afghanistan is currently the source of many international refugees. Iran, as the first point of entry, and Canada, as the final destination, currently hosts a considerable number of Afghan refugees who are faced with challenges in resettlement. Environments, events and experiences that occur before arrival affect and impact coping and integration experience by resettled refugees. Language and cultural differences often present general barriers and challenges to integration and resettlement. Additionally, moving from a society where women may face restrictions in roles and activities to a Western secular society such as Canada may influence their post-arrival food security status. More than two million Afghan refugees first migrate to and live in Iran. From there, some claim refugee status through United Nation Refugee Agency to move to developed countries such as Canada. Consequently, Afghan refugees have represented a considerable proportion of the refugee population in Canada in the last few decades.

For more information about this project, or any queries, please contact the project manager (Scarlett Ewen) at

News and Upcoming Events

Dr. Hassan Vatanparast, Assistant Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics, has been conducting research into healthy newcomers to Canada with a specific focus on children. Below are links to a CBC Radio interview and CBC News article for a recently completed research project about vitamin D deficiency in immigrant and refugee children.

Nutrition professor studying health, nutritional needs of newcomer children - video interview with Dr. Hassan Vatanparast -

CBC News Article -

CBC Radio Interview and Discussion -

PMC Regional Conference 2011
Prairie Metropolis and Beyond
The Prairie Metropolis Centre regional conference will be held on November 4 and 5, 2011 in Edmonton to celebrate the 16 years of the Metropolis Project. This regional conference will be in lieu of research symposia in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, and Edmonton. 

November 2010- April 2012: Recruiting participants for Healthy Immigrant Children (HIC) Study

Saskatoon and Regina Healthly Immigrant Children Recruitment Poster

Saskatoon and Regina Healthy Immigrant Children Recruitment Poster - French

June 2-4, 2011: Canadian Nutrition Society Annual Meeting, Guelph University, Guelph, Ontario


Services and resources for newcomer immigrants and refugees

Below is a list of links to non-governmental and governmental organizations who are involved in providing services and resources. Please visit their websites for more information.  

Child Hunger and Education Program

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)   

City of Saskatoon

Government of Saskatchewan,
Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration (AEEI)


Global Gathering Place                                

Health Canada

International Women of Saskatoon

Newcomer Information Center

Regina Community Clinic

Regina Open Door Society         

Saskatoon Health Region

Saskatchewan Intercultural Association

Saskatoon Open Door Society

We would like to thank the following collaborators and partners:


Government of Saskatchewan,
Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration (AEEI)


Regina Community Clinic

Regina Open Door Society         

Roche Diagnostics

Saskatoon Health Region

Saskatchewan Health Quality Council                       

Saskatchewan Intercultural Association

Saskatoon Open Door Society

ZRT Laboratories