Black people experience disparities in health outcomes when compared to the Canadian population at large. Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death among Canadians and Black communities are among those with the greatest increases in risk factors for heart disease and stroke such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic stress, and obesity. These conditions can impact quality of life and also contribute to higher mortality rates.

Although there are some conditions that are inherited at greater rates in some ethnic groups, such as sickle cell disease, the majority of chronic illnesses have many different contributing factors including – social determinants of health such as access to health care, support networks, education and stress.

One ongoing stressor is Anti-Black Racism, which we believe is a major contributing factor to many of the disparities in health that Black people experience. Living with both societal and personal racism has been shown to worsen multiple chronic illnesses.

An Ontario study determined that from 2001 to 2012:

  • Diabetes rates doubled among Black women from  6% to 12%.
  • Black women have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than Black men.
  • Among ethnic communities, Black women have had the most drastic increase in rates of high blood pressure increasing from 20% in 2001 to 27% in 2012.

*Chiu M, Maclagan LC, Tu JV, et al. Temporal trends in cardiovascular disease risk factors among white, South Asian, Chinese and black groups in Ontario, Canada, 2001 to 2012: a population-based study. BMJ Open 2015;5:e007232. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007232

Our long-term goal is to reduce the higher rates of chronic illness in Black Canadians. We aim to first ENGAGE in research being done to provide accurate data about the nature and causes of these rate differences.  Then apply information to ENSURE that government and health care providers fund and address the root causes of the illness. Then we must EMPOWER our communities to take control of their own health outcomes and care.

To accomplish this goal we need to have all members of the health care spectrum involved in the conversation, from those affected by chronic illness, to care givers to those seeking long-term cures.  We have gained many advances in equality in other aspects of our collective lives. This is an area where we can and will also excel.


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