Race is a key component of Culture and Ethnicity, one of sixteen social determinants of health (SDOH) recognized at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
What is racism?
Race is an idea created by humans, that has no basis in biology. Racism and its effects go far beyond individual acts of discrimination. Its most broad effects are systemic and often invisible to those who do not experience it first-hand.
It is a common misconception that only Black, Indigenous and other People of Colour are affected by racism. These groups experience the negative effects of racism. However, we are all affected by racism. For example, white North Americans often unknowingly uphold systems of racism that serve to benefit their own race. We all have a role to play to look inwards and reflect on how we can become more anti-racist and reject racist systems.
What has racism got to do with public health?
Racism leads to health inequities which are unfair, avoidable, and systematic differences in health outcomes. Our role at HPEPH is to identify and act to reduce these inequities. This is important to reach our vision of healthy people, healthy communities.
What is HPEPH doing to address health inequities resulting from racism in our communities?
Each Ontario health unit is accountable to the Ontario Public Health Standards. One of these standards is focused on health equity. It is our responsibility to enhance capacity to apply anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and culturally safe approaches to public health practice.
Here is what HPEPH is doing to address racial inequities in our communities:
- Member of the Belleville Inclusion Committee, which advocates for the City of Belleville to be welcoming through the Coalition for Inclusive Municipalities.
- Devoting a full-time public health nurse to the social determinants of health and health equity, including racism.
- Enabling staff to participate in Indigenous Cultural Safety training. One example is the KAIROS Blanket Exercise undertaken by the Board of Health and select staff as a tool to learn about the history of colonialism and Indigenous people across what we now call Canada.
- Providing evidence to municipal leaders and decision makers about the unintended health equity impacts of various policies and by-laws.
- Completing a collaborative study on how to build meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples who are friends and neighbours of Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. This is expected to continue as we work to develop a land acknowledgment that is meaningful and respectful.