African, Caribbean and Black communities in Ottawa and Toronto say health-care providers need to better understand their needs and create programs catered to them during the pandemic, according to the preliminary findings of a study published Monday to mark the beginning of Black History Month.
“We thought this is so timely,” said Josephine Etowa, the study’s project lead and professor at the school of nursing at the University of Ottawa. “We’re about 50 per cent of the way to completion of our data collection … and [we’re] reminding people of some of the needs of people of African descent.”
A joint news release from the CO-CREATH lab at the University of Ottawa and the HiFi lab at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto states there needs to be evidence-based, racially-responsive health care for members of the African, Caribbean and Black communities.
The two labs embarked on the study last year, which looks at how the health-care system can be improved to better serve those communities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
A professor with the School of Nursing at the University of Ottawa heads up a new research project into how the healthcare system can be improved to better serve African, Caribbean and Black communities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. 9:07
The study has surveyed 249 health-care providers in Ottawa and Toronto so far, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, personal support workers, community health providers and public health experts.
Of those surveyed, 72 per cent said almost half of their clients are African, Caribbean and Canadian Black, states the news release.
Researchers also interviewed 80 people from the African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) community, health-care providers and policy-makers in the two cities. All groups said the Black community is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“Discrimination is a barrier affecting access to health-care service, and there is a need for health-care providers to understand the needs of ACB people,” states the release.
The participants said they needed meaningful engagement with health-care professionals in developing strategies, policies and programs to address their needs.
Researchers say these findings “underscore the need for anti-racist” training and knowledge among health-care providers who serve those communities.
“Systemic racism still exists, and both people of African descent and actually other people need to have targeted interventions that would begin to address this,” said Etowa.
Etowa listed poor employment situations, frequent use of public transportation and poor housing as some factors that those communities are confronted with in COVID-19 hotspots, which make it harder for people to physically distance.
She said during the study, community members expressed hope about engaging with health-care providers.
“They’re excited of the prospects of them [working] with providers to understand their needs,” said Etowa. “They believe that having their voices at the table will help them.”
The ongoing study plans to survey 600 health-care providers and conduct 100 in-depth interviews. Etowa said the full report is expected to come out in the next few months.