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Dismantling Anti‑Black Racism in Medicine
Canada must dismantle anti-Black racism in health care to address its harmful effects on people’s health, argue authors of a commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).
“Time to dismantle systemic anti-Black racism in medicine in Canada” was published January 11, 2021. In it, the article identifies Anti-Black racism as a specific form of racism, rooted in the history and experience of enslavement, that is targeted against Black people.
“We can address, confront, and interrupt anti-Black racism in medicine by taking direction from leading experts both within and outside our profession. An easy step is to pay attention to the conversations Black people are having in our communities, including patients and health care professionals,” write Drs. OmiSoore Dryden, Dalhousie University, and Onye Nnorom, University of Toronto, co-leads of Canada’s Black Health Education Collaborative.
Racism has significant negative effects on the physical and mental health of Black people and people of nondominant racial groups. For example, there have been significantly higher death rates from COVID-19 among Black people in North America and the United Kingdom. Anti-Black racism also exists in the medical system, with stereotyping and bias by health care providers and an underrepresentation of Black physicians.
“First, we who work in health care must acknowledge the existence of anti-Black racism in our systems and commit to meaningful, sustained change. We can do this by listening to the voices of Black Canadians, patients and health care professionals who have been grappling with anti-Black racism for generations, and by engaging with the many communities that have made recommendations for meaningful change to address the problem.”
They recommend anti-racism training for health care providers, collecting race-based data in partnership with specific communities, addressing anti-Black racism in medical schools and the health system, and increasing accessibility and admission for Black students.
“The field of medicine can no longer deny or overlook the existence of systemic anti-Black racism in Canada and how it affects the health of Black people and communities. It is time to acknowledge and commit to dismantling systemic racism within our institutions of care and education."
Update: Dr. Dryden appeared on CBC Canada Tonight on January 14 to discuss her commentary in the CMAJ and issues of anti-Black racism in medicine, health care and medical education. To listen to the interview, skip to 17:35.
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