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Improving the Health Outcomes of People of African Descent



People of African descent in Canada have a longstanding history of systemic racism, which has been documented by a United Nations General Assembly report released in 2017. The report notes that, in general, people of African descent in Canada have worse health outcomes and that social factors such as poverty, unemployment, racism and other forms of discrimination increase the risk of illness and inhibit timely and equitable treatment. As a result, people of African descent in Canada experience disproportionate rates of chronic health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, HIV and AIDS, cancers, mental health problems, and sickle cell disease. Also contributing to these disparities are lack of cultural specificity in health education and the underrepresentation of health professionals of African descent in the health system.

Understanding the complex web of inequalities that impacts the health of people of African descent and other racialized communities requires an appreciation for social or structural determinants of health.


People from historical African Nova Scotian communities are the oldest Black population in Canada. They descend from African slaves and freedmen, Black Loyalists from the United States, the Nova Scotian colonists of Sierra Leone, the Maroons from Jamaica, and the refugees of the War of 1812.Today, people of African descent present the largest racially visible community, constituting 2.4 percent of the total Nova Scotian population. 

Nova Scotia provides a much needed opportunity to develop, test and study health care services that are structurally competent in how they understand and address causal factors (e.g., racism) in our social structures (employment, education, criminal justice, health care, etc.).

Read our snapshot on this topic here.

Flagship Project Co-Leads 

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Dr. OmiSoore Dryden
Faculty of Medicine

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Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch 

Faculty of Health

Podcast Alert!
Hear from our Flagship Project Co-Leads directly. Former Co-Lead Dr.Waldron and current Co-Lead Dr.Hamilton-Hinch provide an overview of their research and interest in improving the health outcomes of people of African descent in Nova Scotia and beyond. 

Flagship Project Community Lead:


Rhonda Atwell

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Rhonda is the African Nova Scotian Services Consultant with Nova Scotia Health. She has several years of experience working, volunteering and learning with non for profit, government and communities within the Halifax Regional Municipality and in the Greater Toronto area. Rhonda has an educational background in Health Science and Health Promotion and brings with her extensive skill sets and vast experience. She is a trained facilitator in ASPIRE and Dialogue for Peaceful change and has a strong interest in Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, transformational psychology, holistic wellness and real and lasting change.

Translating Research Into Action


HPI Co-Hosts First International Black Health Conference

October 6-8, 2022

The conference was co-hosted by the Healthy Populations Institute in partnership with the McMaster University HOPE Chair in Peace and Health, Dr. Ingrid Waldron, the Health Association of African Canadians, and the Nova Scotia Decade for People of African Descent. The first of its kind, this conference  brought together an international audience of academics, health providers, decision makers and community members to discuss best practices for the improvement of the health outcomes of people of African descent in Canada and globally. Check out HPI Scholar Barb Hamilton-Hinch discuss the conference on Global News. 

The Conference featured three keynote speakers, several plenaries, table talks and all discussions were connected by a common thread of structural determinants of health, including the impact of Anti-Black racism and health inequities. Importantly, fifteen table-talks were held, where attendees were grouped to discuss a previously selected topic, moderated by a discussant with expertise on such subject. Notes were taken from those table talk conversations, and the main learnings are presented in a  new Conference Report (May 2023), containing diverse perspectives on important Black Health issues. These learnings can guide the actions of different sectors (academics, clinicians, policymakers) to address priority issues that need action now and that are long overdue.


Addressing Stigma and Promoting Help-Seeking Among African Nova Scotian Youth Experiencing Psychosis and Other Mental Health Problems

September 2022 

Former Flagship Project Co-Lead Dr. Ingrid Waldron and HPI Emerging Leader Brannon Senger released a publication that looked at overcoming barriers to accessing care mental healthcare for African Nova Scotians and engaging this group in treatment. Take a look!

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Whiteboard Animation Video:
Funded by HPI and the Faculty of Health, designed and developed by Dr. Sarah Moore (HPI Scholar) and with content by Flagship Co-Lead Dr. Hamilton-Hinch and former Co-Lead Dr. Ingrid Waldron, this animated video looks at health disparities in Black Canadians. To view the 2 minute video, click here. 


Black Mental Health Professionals Speak! Informing NSHA’s African Nova Scotian Health Care Strategy

June 4, 2021

The main purpose of this two-year study was to contribute to NSHA’s African Nova Scotian Health Care Strategy by gaining insights from Black mental health clinicians, administrators, health promoters, policymakers, and professors about how their cultural beliefs, beliefs about mental illness and help-seeking, and education and training influence how they understand and address mental illness experienced by Black people of diverse cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, income levels, education levels, and other identities.  


Your Mind Matters: An African Nova Scotian Youth Education Project

 June 4, 2021

The aim of the study documented in this report is to create culturally appropriate community education resources to enable young African Nova Scotian youth (18-30 years old) to recognize early warning signs of psychosis, and to encourage them in looking after their own mental health and that of their peers. 

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There's Something in the Water
Ingrid Waldron

Scholar Check In:
Watch a video on former Flagship Project Co-Lead Ingrid Waldron here.

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