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Putting a microscope on systemic racism in health care – and the role of corporate Canada

COVID-19 does discriminate. It acts differently in different communities, especially on the grounds of race, sex, age, or disability. And Black Canadians are more likely to test positive and be hospitalized than any other ethnic group.

In a national survey by Innovative Research Group in partnership with the African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council, 21 per cent of Black Canadians said they knew someone who had died of COVID-19, compared with only 8 per cent of non-Black Canadians. The survey also found that Black Canadians are more likely to work in-person jobs that require them to commute by public transportation and are often in positions without paid leave.

But the health challenges for Black Canadians long predate the pandemic. Everyday systemic discrimination has resulted in exclusion from health care for the Black community. For example, Black Ontarian women are four times less likely to have family doctors than white women in the province.

These racial disparities in access to care contribute to worse physical and mental health outcomes for the Black population. For instance, Black women are comparatively underscreened for cervical and breast cancer and have three times the rate of diabetes and twice the rate of hypertension of white women in Ontario.

According to a 2020 report by the Public Health Agency of Canada, these numbers are mirrored in communities across the country. The report also finds that the impact of these experiences can result in chronic stress and trauma, which is all too often passed down through generations from structural inequities.

We can take action to address this today.

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