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Manitoba first province to collect race-based data from hospital patients

Manitoba will soon become the first Canadian province to collect race-based data from patients in hospitals across the province as part of an initiative that will collect and analyze racial, ethnic and indigenous identity data.

The initiative is led by Dr. Marcia Anderson, Executive Director, Indigenous Academic Affairs at Ongomiizwin, the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba.

“We know that there are racial and ethnic differences in access to health care, the care people receive and overall health,” said Anderson, a Cree-Anishinaabe physician who is also vice dean of Indigenous Health, Social Justice and Anti Is Racism by the Rady Faculty. “Manitoba has been a leader in using data to show the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racist communities. Now we will be the first province to systematically collect self-declared race-based data from patients when they access care.”

Patients will be asked to voluntarily provide their identity from April 2023. You will be asked to choose from a list of Indigenous identities such as First Nations status, Inuit, or Métis, or other identities such as Black, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, or White.

The information is collected as a routine part of patient registration at hospitals, including emergency departments, across Manitoba.

“Collecting these demographic data is essential for measuring health disparities resulting from systemic racism, prejudice and discrimination,” said Monika Warren, chief operating officer of provincial coordinated health services and chief nursing officer at Shared Health. “While this disclosure of information is voluntary and patients can opt-out, it is an important element in our efforts to improve patient care, healthcare reporting and planning, and healthcare system performance and services.”

Countries like the United States, Australia and England collect racial identifiers as part of health data, and Canada now recognizes the need for this type of information, Anderson said.

“We hope that the public will see the benefits of participating, as they did when we collected these identifiers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Self-declaration is a way to be counted as a member of your racial or ethnic community and to contribute to health research.”

Gathering this data is part of broader healthcare system efforts to address inequalities in care and outcomes, Anderson added.

“This important initiative will inform health leadership decisions in tackling inequalities and improving the patient experience across the province,” said Health Secretary Audrey Gordon. “There is zero tolerance for racism in our healthcare system, and our healthcare system is committed to providing safe and inclusive patient care.”

The George and Fay Yee Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) is supporting the project management of this initiative and will lead the evaluation of its implementation. CHI, operated jointly by UM and Shared Health, also provides expertise on the development of staff training and educational materials, as well as the governance framework for the data.

In 2022, the Canadian Institute for Health Information released Pan-Canadian Standards for Collecting Racial and Indigenous Identity Data in Healthcare Systems. The standards aim to harmonize collection and ensure high-quality data that can be compared across jurisdictions. Manitoba’s process is aligned with these standards.

On February 2, Ongomiizwin and CHI are hosting a half-day community engagement event, A Discussion on Community-owned Race-based Data in Health Care, at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Attendees will provide input and help plan community engagement community and data management.

“There will continue to be meaningful engagement with diverse Black, Indigenous and racist communities to ensure the safe and appropriate collection and use of this data,” Anderson said. “These groups will also be consulted on their priorities for data reporting and health research.”

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