Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize the place of the Black community in the history of Canada, as well as to celebrate the achievements and ongoing contributions of Black Canadians to Canada’s history and culture. Learning the histories of people like Dr. Anderson Abbott and Bernice Redmond helps to create a better and more complete picture of Canada’s past. As we celebrate the achievements of the Black community in Canada, it is also an opportunity to reflect on the work that still needs to be done.
Federated Health Charities was founded by provincial employees in the Ontario Public Service (OPS) in 1983 to raise money for health-related causes. 40 years later, Federated Health Charities continues to work with provincial employees in provincial ministries, government agencies and the OPP in communities all across Ontario to raise funds for our 21 member charities so they can provide health awareness and education, medical research, and client and patient services for all Ontarians. As an organization by and for Ontario public servants, we are committed to the principles of anti-racism, diversity, inclusion and equity.
In terms of healthcare, equity means ensuring people have an equal chance of attaining their fullest health potential, including addressing social factors – referred to as “determinants” – that can impact our health, such as race, culture and economic status. These factors, particularly when two or more factors are present in a population, can have a serious impact on our health both as individuals and as a community. For example, studies of COVID-19 deaths in Canada found that Black Canadians were more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to non-racialized Canadians and that Black Canadians living in low income were three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than Black Canadians not living in low income.
Recognizing how social determinants can impact the health of individuals and communities is an important step toward identifying and addressing the barriers, gaps and inequalities in our healthcare system. That is why Federated Health Charities has taken the opportunity over the past three years to engage in important conversations regarding systemic racism in the health not-for-profit sector so we and our member charities can better focus on health inequities, particularly those impacting Black Canadians.
Since 2020, Federated Health Charities has been working with the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario to help improve the lives of individuals and families living with sickle cell disease as part of their vision to ensure every Ontarian with sickle cell disease has equal and equitable access to comprehensive, standard care regardless of their place of residence in the province.
Sickle cell disease is the most common genetically inherited disease in Canada, affecting approximately 4,000 Ontarians. It is a severe, congenital disorder of the red blood cells, affecting individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Mediterranean, African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, South American, and South Asian. Individuals living with sickle cell disease experience chronic fatigue, episodic pain crises, and compromised immune systems, putting them at increased risk of infection and serious illness from communicable diseases such as COVID-19. Without proper, ongoing care, individuals with sickle cell disease experience major health complications including organ failure, even at a young age.
In Ontario, most individuals affected by sickle cell disease identify as Black. Health inequalities that impact Black Canadians create significant barriers to receiving timely and adequate healthcare for individuals with sickle cell disease.
Improving health outcomes for Ontarians with sickle cell disease will benefit patients and their families by decreasing severe complications and the need for hospitalization, while reducing healthcare costs. It will also improve individuals’ quality of life, increase their economic opportunities, and significantly decrease the burden of in-patient care on individuals and their families.
To learn more about how the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario is working to improve the lives and health of Ontarians with sickle cell disease, please visit Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (sicklecellanemia.ca).
To donate to Federated Health Charities and support the work of the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario and our other member charities, please visit Federated Health Charities.