Barriers in Health Care

Acknowledging inequities in the sector

Barriers to healthcare access

From the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Collaborative

Andrea McIntyre; Registered Practical Nurse, Neurological Rehabilitation

While we acknowledge the achievements and contributions of the Black diaspora every day, Black History Month is a time of special observance. While we reflect and celebrate the impact of the Black community, we also evaluate opportunities for change, to establish the benchmark for what inclusivity and diversity should look like going forward. We are privileged in Canada to have access to universal health care. However, the racial disparities in health care are a prevalent concern. 

The Journal of Emergency Care states that there are significantly higher mortality rates in Black patients up to 24 per cent, especially in postpartum care. Additionally, Black patients are less likely to be admitted/believed regarding their health concerns and are less likely to receive emergency care than their white counterparts. The New England Journal of Medicine cites a study conducted in 2016 where 57 per cent of medical trainees held the common and false belief that Black people have a higher tolerance for pain than that of their white counterparts. A similar study revealed that it was a commonly held belief that there were fundamental biological differences in Black people. These ideas are harmful because they are often manifested in systemic policies and practices rooted in unconscious bias and negative stereotypes. They compromise appropriate care, diagnosis, interventions, and in many cases can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Current policies and practices need to be reviewed and changed in a measurable way. This starts with a systemic dismantling of the biases and stereotypes that harm the vulnerable people the system was meant to help. Effective strategies that eliminate racial inequity must then be implemented. Some of the great strides we have made toward diversity have at first challenged us to unpack hurtful truths. However, addressing this harsh reality does not diminish our past victories but rather strengthens our resolve to facilitate the victories of our future.