Journal of Community Health

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 1148–1155 | Cite as

Volunteers’ Experiences Delivering a Community-University Chronic Disease Health Awareness Program for South Asian Older Adults

Original Paper


Volunteers and voluntary organizations can connect preventative health care programs to communities and may play an important role in addressing the health needs of older adults. Despite this, tensions may exist in the structures that drive volunteers and voluntary organizations representing immigrant communities to provide unpaid labour to augment and supplement health care services. Furthermore, organizational challenges may exist for community agencies relying on volunteers to sustain a health screening and education program. The intervention program was led by one voluntary agency specifically for South Asian communities in partnership with the university and five local organizations. This paper draws on volunteer surveys (n = 22) and key informant interviews (n = 12) to detail volunteer experiences providing this intervention. Volunteers were university students and other community volunteers. A total of 810 adults participated in the intervention within the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada between October 2014 and June 2016. We found that volunteers often used their experience as a ‘stepping stone’ position to other education or work. They also gained from the knowledge and used it to educate themselves and their family members and friends. This paper provides a critical reflection on the role of volunteers in a preventative and educational healthcare intervention program for older adults from the South Asian community. Tensions exist when relying on volunteer labour for the implementation of preventative community health care programming and must be explored to ensure program sustainability as well as equity within the health care system.


Volunteers Voluntary sector Preventative community health care South Asian older adults Health education 



We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the CHAP volunteers and the community organizations that helped to run and host the sessions and to the program of research and contributions of the larger CHAP team ( Research assistance was provided by Ms. Magali Rootham, Dr. Alison Jenkins-Jayman, and Ms. Joanne Rappaport. All failings remain those of the authors.


This study was funded by the following grants: CIHR Partnerships for Health System Improvement grant #129907, nominated Principal Investigator Dr. Tamara Daly, entitled “The Cardiovascular Health Awareness Program for the South Asian Community in York Region: Assessing volunteer participation and the gender and ethnospecific impacts” with partner funding directly brokered by CIHR from the Rx&D Foundation; CIHR Team Grant in Community-Based Primary Healthcare entitled Canadian Chronic Disease Awareness and Management Program (C-CHAMP) nominated Principal Investigator Dr. Janusz Kakzorowski (#128264); and Dr. Tamara Daly’s CIHR Research Chair in Gender, Care Work and Health (grant #126581). No funders were involved in any way in the research or data analysis and the findings are the sole responsibility of the authors.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all interviewees involved in this research study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Policy and EquityYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.York University Centre for Aging Research & EducationTorontoCanada
  3. 3.School of Health Policy & ManagementYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Critical Disability Studies York UniversityTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Gender, Feminist & Women’s StudiesYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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