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Black Experiences in Health Care: Symposium Report Summary

I Introduction
II Recommendations
III Conclusion

Summarized from the Black Experiences in Health Care Symposium Report, with permission (thank you!)


I Introduction


“When we think of complex patients, we picture an aging population with multiple chronic diseases. It’s important we all understand that inequity and racism are disease equivalents in terms of their impact. They contribute to complexity and poor outcomes in the same way diabetes and hypertension do.”
-- Dr. Gary Newton, President and CEO of Sinai Health System

The Black Experiences in Health Care (BEHC) Symposium was organized and hosted by Sinai Health System’s Human Rights & Health Equity Office and the BEHC Organizing Committee (which includes Black Health Alliance, Wellesley Institute and TAIBU Community Health Centre) with support from Toronto Central LHIN. The Symposium, held March 25 2017, aimed to identify and raise awareness of issues and concerns with a Toronto focus relating to health inequities faced by Black Ontarians. The goals of the Symposium were to begin to address these inequities and to strategize how to recommend solutions that will improve access and care for Black Ontarians in the health care system.

Leading up to the symposium, the committee identified the key elements of health inequities faced by Black Ontarians, including, but not limited to: lack of access to health care services, gaps in care, and inequities in outcomes. The symposium brought together providers, academics, advocates, patients/clients and members of the community to focus on the Black experience in health care. This was a unique opportunity to discuss the shared experiences of anti-Black racism in health care settings and the impact of anti-Black racism on the health of community members. More specifically the discussions included:

  • mental health,
  • the experiences of Black health care providers,
  • the impact of intersectionality,
  • HIV/AIDS, and
  • the impact of racism within and outside the health care system (primary care, acute and rehab care), on the health outcomes of Black people.

A unifying finding of the day was the need to address systemic racism, implicit bias, and cultural safety[i] within our health care institutions to move toward a more equitable system. The symposium report was produced to serve as a tool to create greater accountability across the LHINs, hospitals, Community Health Centres and other health care providers throughout Ontario.

II Recommendations

Four main themes stood out in the recommendations:

  1. The critical need for demographic data collection.
    Data quality challenges were raised: many attendees agreed that there is urgent need for data sets that include both “race” and “ethnicity.”
  2. Prevent and eliminate the impact of racism and specifically anti-Black racism on health.
  3. The need for appropriate mental health services.
    Notable recommendations included a strategy for funding more Black community mental health services and ongoing anti-racism work with police and the justice system.
  4. Providing education, planning and services that will achieve health equity.
    Mandatory health equity training was recommended within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, LHINs, and other health care organizations.

III Conclusion

The uniqueness and timeliness of the Black Experiences in Health Care Symposium brought energy to this important health equity challenge faced by Ontario. Attendees recommend that the momentum of the symposium be built upon. To address the gaps in care and the barriers faced by Black Ontarians, more work around equitable access to health care services, gaps in care and outcomes must be undertaken to improve health equity.

Read the full report and detailed recommendations:


[i] “[Indigenous cultural competency] training is designed for agencies, organizations, institutions to build a foundational awareness of Indigenous peoples and enhance self-awareness. Through experiential learning the delivery of the training is inclusive within a group based setting to promote dialogue and create a safe space to discuss topics which relate to Indigenous peoples.” Source: