On Thursday, April 22, Women Who Lead partnered with UHN Women to foster an open and honest discussion about health equity and systematic racism in healthcare. Over 300 people joined the session, showing both interest in this topic and desire to support and see change.
Four outstanding panelists, each at different stages and in different roles, discussed their perspectives on health equity and systematic racism in healthcare: Jan Campbell, Founder and CEO, Strategisense Consulting; Darlene Dasent, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, UHN; Tyla Thomas-Jacques, Public Health Professional; and Sane Dubé, Manager of Community & Policy, UHN Social Medicine & Population Health.
First to define the challenges at play. Health inequities are health differences between population groups that are unfair and avoidable, as defined by the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (follow on Twitter here). Social determinants of health are multifactorial and can include where somebody lives, their income, race and more, and can significantly impact health overall. Law, policy, practice and norms (what we do on a day-to-day basis) also have an impact.
The health system as it stands is not designed to address health inequities or the social determinants of health, which creates a gap in care benefiting privileged groups the most.
For BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) health care workers and patients, the interplay of health inequities and social determinants of health is often exhausting and detrimentally impacts their experience as a care provider and with receiving care. One pertinent example being the way COVID-19 has disproportionately affected racialized and low-income people, and has made it very obvious that there are inequities that have real and tragic impacts. During the event the panelists each touched on their unique experience facing systemic racism within the health system throughout their lives.
The panelists tabled actionable steps healthcare leaders can take. Opportunities for you to help tackle these challenges and enact change may include:
- Be visible. Showcase your expertise to influence others and create new norms.
- Listen and learn from others how you can be of most help to them.
- Be a champion. Bring health equity and anti-oppression considerations to the forefront, regardless of your organization’s commitment (or lack thereof).
- Support financially. If you are in a position to, align your financial investments as an organization behind initiatives that address health inequities. In short, put your $$ where your mouth is.
- Be a voice that asks for accountability.
- Challenge systems and structures we work within.
- Recognize that the self-work doesn’t stop.
- Ask yourself: how do you share your power and privilege? How do you use your voice and position?
Learn more about this topic, the lived experiences of the panelists, and what actions you can take by watching the full event on YouTube.