Ask candidates how they would address crisis in Black health


Black Canadians (people of African descent) are the third largest visible minority community in Canada, The largest segment (nearly half a million) of which live in Ontario comprising close to 20 per cent of all visible minority people in the province.

Black Canadians experience worse health outcomes and are less likely to use health services than many other groups. Social factors including poverty, unemployment, racism and discrimination increases the risk of illness and interferes with timely and equitable treatment.

As a result, Black Canadians experience a high and disproportionate level of chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and AIDS, some common cancers, mental health problems and sickle cell disease. These lead to a significant burden on the community and the health and social care budget.

It has been demonstrated that improvements in health promotion, illness prevention and more equitable treatment can decrease the community burden of disease and the costs to the health and social care system.

Action now will decrease the rates and impacts of these chronic diseases. Lack of action will condemn a generation to higher rates of illness and decreased economic productivity. Investing in the health of the Black population of Ontario is investing in the economy.

In the remaining weeks leading up to election night in Ontario on October 6, most if not all MPP hopefuls will be participating in neighbourhood All Candidates Meetings. I attended one in my riding just two days ago.

These events provide an opportunity for community members to be introduced to and hear from the provincial candidates representing the major parties in the coming election. More importantly, it may be your best opportunity to compare and contrast the positions of the candidates on a wide range of issues. And if you are persistent, bold and maybe a little bit lucky you will have the opportunity to ask the candidates a few questions on what matters most to you.

For members of Ontario’s diverse Black communities facing several significant challenges, there are a wide range of pertinent issues you could ask in education, employment or the criminal justice system to name a few. One of the key issues for Ontarians and certainly for our community is health care.

The Black Health Alliance has prepared a few recommended questions you could ask your MPP/candidates regarding health care at your local All Candidates Meeting.

There are nearly half a million Black Canadians (people of African descent) living in Ontario, comprising nearly 20 per cent of all visible minority people in the province.

  1. How aware are you of the specific health and social challenges faced by Black populations in Ontario and what public policy strategies is your party prepared to advance in order to address them?

In the United States, the UK and elsewhere the collection and proper analysis of data that includes information on race, ethnicity, education, employment, language and other factors has proven to be invaluable in identifying gaps and disparities within employment and hiring practices, education, housing and health care.

  1. Will your party commit to the collection and analysis of health data that includes information on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other identified factors to improve our health care system’s capacity to identify, track and eliminate health disparities?

Sickle cell and thalassemic disorders are debilitating genetic diseases that can cause organ dysfunction, limit an individual’s quality of life and shorten their lifespan. In Ontario there are over 110,000 Black people who are carriers and many living with sickle cell disease. There is no cure for sickle cell disease.

Bill 165 calls for the establishment of Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Care Ontario. The goals of the Corporation include taking measures to improve the co-ordination and quality of healthcare for individuals who have sickle cell or thalassemic disorders and promote awareness of these disorders.

  1. Bill 165 passed the first reading of the Ontario Legislature in March 2011, will you and your party support its passage through to Royal Ascent?

High blood pressure is implicated in the majority of strokes and roughly half of all heart disease. It has been shown that too much salt causes high blood pressure and puts patients at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Black people have the highest rates of high blood pressure, 19.8 per cent, compared to all other populations and 11.1 per cent of Black people report having two or more major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, more than Chinese, South Asian or Caucasians. 

  1. Will you and your party commit to a comprehensive salt-reduction strategy that includes specific targets for the food industry to reduce sodium content and a public education campaign to inform Ontarians, especially those at greatest risk, of the health impact of sodium (salt) in their diet and tools to help with salt-reduction?

Lastly, you can simply ask

  1. As a member of the Black community, which is significantly disadvantaged and dealing with major health related disparities, why should I vote for you and your party?

Again, these are just a few recommended health-related questions to ask, we could easily ask questions addressing mental health and addictions, HIV and AIDS, cancer, diabetes, health promotion in the Black community and so forth. In fact, our over-arching proposal involves the critical need for an Ontario Health Equity and Black Health Strategy.

Lastly, we should communicate clearly to our MPP hopefuls that these issues are very important to us, we are listening carefully to their responses, and we will act and vote accordingly.

The Black Health Alliance, Operation Vote Canada and the Jamaican Canadian Association are pleased to host a Community Election Forum with Minister Margarett Best (Liberal MPP), Karlene Nation (Conservative candidate), Judith Van Veldhuyesn (Green Party candidate) and Kathleen Mathurin (NDP candidate) on Monday September 26 at Forester’s Conference Centre, 789 Don Mills Road just south of Eglinton. The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. following the Black Health Alliance AGM at 6 p.m.  Forum topics will address issues in health, education and employment.

Everyone is welcome.

Dr. Christopher J. Morgan is the director of Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness, an interdisciplinary health centre in Toronto, and the President of the Black Health Alliance, a network of community organizations, health professionals and community members working in partnership to advance the health and well-being of the Black community.

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