This month I had the pleasure of working with the Canadian Association of Nurses in AIDS Care and the Center for Aboriginal Health Research at the University of Victoria. At the 20th Annual CANAC meeting, health researchers gathered to share examples in practice and cutting edge research about health disparities for Aboriginal people in Canada. The theme was “Creating a Culturally Safe Space: what it takes,” and how culturally competent care can begin to address health and social inequalities.
I was blown away by all of the speakers, and especially the keynote by Dr. Cheryl Currie from the University of Lethbridge. She shared new research interviewing university-aged Aboriginal people in Canada about their health care experiences and racism. This has never before been studied in Canada. It’s important to connect health care and racism because racism works at the interpersonal, institutional, and societal (structural) levels in Canada – it’s not just about the patient-doctor relationship. What Dr. Currie finds is that not only do over half of the Aboriginal people interviewed experience a significant racist experience in the past 12 months, but over half of the interviewees also experience statistically ‘significant’ amounts of racism in health care over their lifetime. This has profound effects on health outcomes.
The conference was electric with people sharing ideas and buzzing with energy. Speakers shared stories and examples in practice about delivering culturally competent health care: health navigators, trainings/curricula, partnerships, the role of community and elders, and signs of positive things to come.