February 16, 2021 – February is Black History Month. Now more than ever, HPEPH recognizes anti-Black racism as a public health issue. Last May, a renewed energy to fight racism emerged following acts of police brutality in the United States. Acts of brutality towards Black and Indigenous people in Canada demonstrated that our country is not immune to systemic racism. Heightened understanding of the ongoing impacts of systemic racism encouraged many individuals and organizations, including Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, to reconsider how they could improve their efforts to achieve racial justice and equity.
Public health has a role to play to address anti-Black racism across our communities. Anti-Black racism is a public health issue and HPEPH is committed to enhancing capacity to apply anti-racist, anti-oppressive and culturally safe approaches to public health practice. This means we must continually reflect on how we protect and promote the health of the community in a way that protects everyone fairly.
Last summer, HPEPH made a commitment to undertake the following steps:
- Develop an internal anti-racism working group to review internal policies and practices. The group will include members of the organization from various levels and departments.
- Launch a web page to improve awareness of the impacts of the social determinants of health related to race. This resource will provide residents of our communities with an opportunity to learn more about these important issues.
- Provide education to our own staff to reject racism, and direct them to appropriate public health related resources for use in their practice.
- Strive to collect race-based data in order to better identify and understand health inequities related to race.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed progress towards some of these goals, we remain committed to our Anti-Racism Strategy and have accomplished some key steps such as sharing information about social determinants of health on our website, providing training to staff, and beginning to collect race based information to better understand which groups are being most impacted by the pandemic.
For a detailed progress summary, please see the attached Status Update. For more information about our Commitment to Anti-Racism, please review our statement from Summer 2020.
HPEPH Commitment to Anti-Racism Strategy – Status Update
Last summer, HPEPH made a commitment to undertake four key steps that will help establish an Anti-Racism Strategy. While progress has been delayed due to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have achieved the following:
1. Develop an internal Anti-Racism Working Group to review internal policies and practices. The group will include members of the organization from various levels and departments
Our emergency response to COVID-19 has delayed the establishment of an anti-racism working group as the organization remains in full incident management mode. When staff capacity increases, we fully intend to gather appropriate members of our organization to ensure anti-racism is imbedded in our policies. In the meantime, we are consistently reflecting on current practice to ensure anti-racism is a part of our everyday work.
2. Launch a web page to improve awareness of the impacts of the social determinants of health as related to race. This resource will provide residents of our communities with an opportunity to learn more about these important issues.
We launched several Social Determinants of Health web pages in the summer of 2020. We have received valuable feedback from the community, and we plan to improve and adapt the content on an ongoing basis.
3. Provide education to our own staff to enable them to reject racism, and connect them with appropriate public health related resources for use in their practice.
We have provided staff with resources to learn how to combat racism in public health practice. We have worked with local agencies including Quinte United Immigration Services to help inform our COVID-19 response and recognize concerns of inequity. We intend to strengthen further training opportunities when are available for professional development.
4. Strive to collect race-based data in order to better identify and understand health inequities related to race.
We began collecting race-based and other sociodemographic data since the early Fall 2020. Collecting this information has helped us better understand which groups are being the most affected by COVID-19 in our communities. All case and contact management staff were educated on how to collect this information appropriately and with sensitivity.