Black Health Matters

June 12, 2020- Toronto, Ontario: These last few weeks have become increasingly challenging
as we saw social injustice with the tragic killing of George Floyd, Briana Taylor, and so many others; sparking global unrest and demonstrations. The unnecessary deaths triggered discussions on how much, or how little, has changed when it comes to racism, and the demonstrations that started in Minneapolis where George Floyd died in police custody have spread all over the world, and even to our own country, Canada.

The killings only demonstrate the inequalities faced by the racialized communities – especially Black communities – in every area of life, including inadequate access to health care, food, housing and jobs, and of course the unfair target by the police bullet.

It is our duty as a community to come together to take steps towards reforming and advocating for equality in access to healthcare and to also ensure that no one should be discriminated against based on the color of their skin, ancestry background, sexual orientation, health challenges, and where they live.

According to PM Trudeau in a statement issued on June 2nd, Canadians must be aware of the challenges facing Black Canadians and other minorities and take steps to address them. There is systemic discrimination in Canada, which means our systems treat Canadians of color, Canadians who are racialized differently than they do others.

In sickle cell disease, systemic racism has always been very real as individuals with the disease presenting in Canadian hospitals with vaso-occlusive crisis (painful episode representing the hallmark of the disease) are treated as drug seekers compared to their non-racialized counterparts presenting with pain.

This led SCAGO in 2019 to write Dr. Rueben Devlin who leads the Ontario Premier’s council on improving health and ending hallway medicine that systemic racism is not only costing the system unnecessary health care dollars, it is costing many their lives and it is no longer acceptable! Currently, a working group comprising of representatives from different racialized communities is working on the next steps on this important health advocacy initiative. Racial injustice in health care is unhealthy and must be stopped!

In healthy individuals, red blood cells are round and flexible and move freely through blood vessels to distribute oxygen to all parts of the body. Individuals with SCD have red blood cells which are “sickle” in shape (C-shaped), sticky, and inflexible. These structurally modified red blood cells have difficulty moving through the blood vessels and instead adhere to vessel walls, causing clots within the vessels, inflammation, and limiting oxygen distribution to critical organs. Persons with SCD often experience significant pain, and other complications such as infections, strokes, and acute chest syndrome.

About the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario (SCAGO)
Since 2005, SCAGO has been creating and providing evidence-based supports and services to enhance the health and the quality of life of families with SCD. Its broader vision is for every Ontarian with SCD to have equitable access to comprehensive, standard care regardless of the place of residence in the province.

Twitter: @SCAGO1; Instagram: @SCAGO.1 Website: www.sicklecellanemia.ca
Visit our website to learn more about sickle cell disease.