Despite Canada’s generally high standard of living and a health care system that offers universal access to high quality care, there are major health disparities in our nation. These health disparities are most pronounced for vulnerable populations particularly new immigrants, refugees and Canadian born people from non-dominant ethno-racial communities who often, through the process of racialization, are treated in different and unequal in ways with regressive social, economic and political impacts (Galabuzi, 2001). Improving the health of such vulnerable populations requires moving beyond interventions focused on changing individual behaviours to approaches that address systemic issues that impact on their health, namely racism and racial discrimination.
Emerging research shows that the main determinants of health are neither medical nor behavioural but rather social and economic (Raphael, 2004). Despite evidence of the health impacts of structural inequalities, health determinants such as racism and racial discrimination have received the least attention. For example, there has been very little Canadian research documenting immigrants and racialized people’s experiences with and responses to perceived ‘differential health care’. The term ‘differential care’, adopted by our Racialised Communities and Access to Healthcare Working Group research group, refers to unequal or lower quality care and/or reduced access to care experienced by racialized people as a result of systemic, overt and covert forms of exclusion and discrimination.