“You go to the emergency, you are treated like dirt”: Reducing Aboriginal experiences of racism in health care through a medical school intervention

2013-2016

Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation Establishment Grant

Racism exists in Nova Scotia; it is our shared lived reality and it impacts everyone’s health and wellbeing. While many marginalized populations in Nova Scotia experience racism and bear disproportionate health burdens that can be linked back to racism, Aboriginal peoples’ experiences are distinct; their health status and their ability to access equitable health care are impacted by what is known as the “double burden” of racism and colonialism. A failure amongst health care providers to comprehend the structurally oppressive forces that have shaped contemporary social determinants of Aboriginal health “permits” the perpetuation of health inequities and has led to stereotyping and culture-blaming in diagnosis and treatment. In short, health care providers (not to mention the general population) know very little about this double burden. Thus, the goal of this study is to undertake a mixed methods research project involving qualitative and quantitative approaches as well as a social health intervention with Dalhousie University’s medical school faculty and students aimed at improving Aboriginal health outcomes in Nova Scotia.  The intervention will generate greater awareness amongst educators and future health care practitioners about the impacts of institutional colonialism and racism in a way that will lead them to positively intervene in terms of reducing the social determinants of health risk amongst the Aboriginal population in Nova Scotia.

This project aims to: (1) identify, document, and understand medical students’ and teaching faculty’s awareness of the social determinants of health, colonialism, and racism pertaining to Aboriginal health in Nova Scotia and Canada; (2) identify pedagogical, curricular, and content knowledge about Aboriginal health in Canadian undergraduate medical education courses/training, and evaluate any existing anti-racism/anti-colonial interventions that have been undertaken in other health education settings in order to determine best practices; (3) employ a social health intervention strategy to increase awareness of implicitly held forms of racism and to evaluate the efficacy of the social health intervention.