How Black History Month Promotes Health Equity
Each February, we celebrate Black History Month, to observe and honour the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians throughout history, and today.
As a public health organization, we are interested in improving public health for all, but especially for those who experience health inequities, including, but not limited to, Black Canadians.
Generally, health disparities can result from a combination of social determinants such as systemic racism, poverty, lack of access to health services, and more. Since the Black population in Canada could increase over the coming years, addressing health disparities is even more essential for reducing inequities, and ultimately creating a more inclusive, equitable, just, and healthy society.
You have the power to help improve health equity for Black Canadians. Here are some ways you can Activate Health during Black History Month (and beyond!):
Whether it’s going online to educate yourself on Black history in Canada, reading books by Black Canadian authors, or informing yourself on Black Canadians who have helped shape our country, learn what you can, when you can.
One way to be a great health ambassador is to commit to lifelong learning—it’s good for your own health, as well as the health of others. Dedicating some time to learning can help create a more equitable and inclusive society, ultimately improving health equity for Black people.
While it’s great to go online to learn about Black peoples’ experiences, it’s also important to get out in the community and listen. Whether it’s attending speeches or protests, or listening to live music or poetry readings, you will learn a lot by immersing yourself in Black culture.
By experiencing Black culture in a live setting, hearing their voices in person and being amongst others in the community can help deepen our knowledge and understanding in a different way than when just reading and learning online alone.
In your own community, consider ways you can uplift the accomplishments of Black people. Visit museums that highlight the contributions of Black individuals. Host events that showcase the work of Black artists, musicians, authors, and Black culture. Use your social media platforms to elevate Black people, stories, voices, and culture. These are just a few examples.
Celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of Black people and communities can help to build a greater sense of identity, pride, and resilience, which can have a positive impact on mental health, and can influence overall health outcomes.
With your friends, loved ones, and community, don’t sweep hard conversations about racism and violence under the rug. Instead, proactively create dialogue and discuss the past (like the history of racism and how systemic racism greatly impacts health outcomes, for example), current events (like racist and violent incidents in the news), and the future (like exploring ways we can put an end to racism in our communities and break down systemic barriers).
Racism has had, and continues to have, significant negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of Black people and communities. Discussions around racism can help challenge negative stereotypes and prejudices, which is an important step toward solutions to create a more equitable society, such as healthcare access and quality of care.
Follow Black people, groups, and communities on social media, support their businesses, donate to Black organizations, and volunteer in the community. Further, consider supporting from an intersectional lens, that is, support people who have a combination of a few or many determinants of health, such as Black women, or those in the Black LGBTQ+ community.
Income, social status, and employment are a few social determinants of health that play a large role in achieving one’s full health potential. Supporting Black-owned businesses and organizations can help contribute to the reduction of poverty, economic empowerment, and job creation, giving individuals a greater chance for better health for themselves and their loved ones.
In conclusion, remember that these actions shouldn’t stop at the end of February; consider how you can incorporate these activities more than just once a year during Black History Month. Black Canadians have shaped, and will continue to shape, our province and our country, and it’s important that we recognize and honour achievements, culture, businesses, and also actively fight racism and discrimination whenever and however you see it.
This month, next month, and beyond, let’s commit to Activate Health, and consider how, in our own unique and thoughtful ways, we can contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of Black Canadians.
Resources for further learning:
- February is Black History Month
- The history of Black History Month
- Black History Month resources for BC and Canada
- Learn more about Canada’s Black population
- What was Hogan’s Alley?
- Webinar series on anti-Black racism and public health
- Reading/Resources on disrupting racism in public health
- “The urgency of intersectionality” (TED Talk with Kimberlé Crenshaw)
We would like to add that we don’t presume we know what is like to be a Black Canadian, nor that we are sharing comprehensive information; rather, we hope this is a starting point to encourage thought, dialogue, and as is the aim of Activate Health, to think about how our individual actions can lead to improved population health outcomes and equity.