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.).