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We are coming to the close of Black History Month. We should be proud that this is the 16th year that NYGH has recognized and celebrated this important month. Events recognizing Black Canadians, their history and experiences, bring awareness and help promote a culture of understanding and appreciation.
We were fortunate to have the leadership of Winsome Moxam and Suzette Black in organizing several wonderful events. There was a great education display outside of the cafeteria. We also had Ekua Asabea Blair, CEO of the Massey Centre come and speak. The Massey Centre helps teenagers who are pregnant or who are parents. We also had the pleasure of having Kafinal, a 2019 Juno Award Nominee, preform for us as well as a keynote speaker, Pauline Christian, Founder and CEO of Best Lifestyle Residence Inc. retirement facilities. Lastly, we had Myah Catherine, author of ‘Room 1815' talk about her book.
While there is lots to celebrate as part of Black History Month it should also be a time to pause and reflect about the ongoing racism and discrimination that remain far too prevalent in our society. Ms. Blair spoke about being the first Black CEO of her organization which was more than 100 years old and how she still finds herself as one of the few Black CEOs in health care. We should care about this racism as general members of society — however we should also be particularly concerned as a health care organization.
There is an abundance of data that racism and discrimination lead to poorer physical and mental health outcomes. We know that Black people in our society do not have equitable access to education, housing, jobs and other social determinants of health. Ms. Blair spoke about how hard it is for young pregnant women, especially of a visible minority, to seek care and how they feel judged by society, including in a health care setting when they should feel safe. She noted that racism comes at a cost in every aspect of a person's health and we don't collect enough data to fully understand this cost.
While recognizing this is Black History Month and without detracting from the Black community, we need to recognize that discrimination affects many groups in our society including people of colour, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTQ and new Canadians.
We are a remarkably diverse organization which is one of our strengths and we serve a very diverse community which we should see as a privilege. Health equity is one of the six dimensions of quality as defined by the Institute of Medicine. We need to respect and strengthen the diversity in our organization and also strive to provide equitable care to all who seek our help.
Diversity and inclusion shouldn't end with the last day of a dedicated month. In his book, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, African American Journalist and Author Ta-Nehisi Coates writes: “An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.” I would challenge us to substitute “NYGH” in the place of “America” and consider how we can embed equity in our collective work for all those who face discrimination.
President and CEO
February 28, 2019