A couple weeks ago Wellesley Institute CEO Dr. Kwame McKenzie shared 15 ideas to reduce the impact of racism on health. Then we asked you to join the conversation by taking to Twitter with #stopracism15 and your ideas.
Here’s a taste of what you contributed as well as some resources and media we’ve explored thanks to your participation:
@kwame_mckenzie With the report on Ferguson, how about regular audits on govt agencies to cut out discrimination?Time consuming but may help
— marika elek (@mkelek) March 5, 2015
Thanks, Marika. This idea is important because discrimination has a deep impact on health. When we think about the events in Ferguson and what it would be like to live as a racialized person in that city, it brings to mind evidence that racial biases (highlighted in the Ferguson report) can negatively impact stress and health.
This recent blog post from the American Psychological Association discusses how racial inequality affects the brain. “Research shows that perceiving discrimination against oneself is detrimental to mental and physical health, including significantly heightening stress responses,” the post explains.
So how can this evidence impact the way agencies interact with the public, to ensure all people have equal opportunities for good health?
@wellesleyWI easy just clamp down on institutional racism in key businesses and organisations e.g.NHS
— chimeme egbutah (@urbanlives) March 7, 2015
Thanks, Chimeme. Institutional racism is indeed a problem, especially in health. We recently released a paper that explores how Indigenous peoples in Canada experience the health care system, and how colonization has left a deep mark on the health of Indigenous peoples.
Out of the paper came some ideas for moving forward including:
- reframe the conversation around race and health by acknowledging the systemic realities of racism and colonialism
- generate meaningful data in order to understand how race impacts health disparitives
- develop interventions to address systemic racism
What other concrete actions can be taken to reduce institutional racism?
@kwame_mckenzie we have russian jews and other isolated groups in our Hesperus community. Themed festive meals have helped remove barriers
— Mark McAlister (@stookey99) March 4, 2015
Making sure isolated groups interact with others is most definitely vital, so thanks for bringing this up, Mark. In Dr. McKenzie’s original 15 ideas for reducing impact of racism on health, he mentions getting children from different groups, neighbourhoods and communities to interact with each other. We love the idea of festive meals to get people together as food is such an important aspect of culture, and sharing another culture’s cuisine can help with understanding and acceptance.
Are there any good resources about removing cultural barriers between older populations? We found some good ideas for embracing diversity and improving relationships between residents and staff in long-term care, but would like to read more about ensuring groups interact within elderly communities.
This would make an immense impact. The End Racial Profiling Act has been re-introduced to the U.S. Congress in 2015, but it’s been rejected many times in the past. The questions now are: how can people support the act’s passage and how can we get this on the table in Canada?
Thanks Juan, we believe health is a human right and the Canadian government has in fact signed every treaty relevant to the right to health. However, upholding the right to health means not only providing good health care but also taking action on the underlying factors that affect health, including race, housing, and food security amongst others.
Unfortunately, Canada has not yet embedded the language or duties of the right to health into policies or programs. You might be interested in Wellesley researcher Vanessa Abban’s recent post about health as a human right. And look out for an upcoming paper about implementing a rights-based approach to health in Canadian policy.
This recent Maclean’s story about people getting together to talk about racism in Winnipeg was inspiring. Participants split up into groups of six or eight and every 20 minutes shuffled tables to have a new conversation. It would be great to get a group like this together to brainstorm solutions for tough issues like racial barriers to health. The article also points to another big step for the city: the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association is proposing a mandatory Indigenous course for all students. The cultural understanding that would result from this course could help break down barriers, especially for those who might end up working in health care or the public service.
Thanks again for sharing your ideas! We look forward to hearing more in the coming weeks. And if you have seen any creative interventions at work either in your community or around the world, let us know.