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Manitoba hospitals will soon be collecting race-based patient info

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The province of Manitoba will soon become the first province in Canada to collect race-based data from hospital patients to find ways to combat persistent “racial and ethnic disparities” in the healthcare system, according to a Manitoba doctor.

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“We know that there are racial and ethnic differences in access to health care, the care people receive and overall health,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson in a media release on Thursday.

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Anderson is currently vice dean for Indigenous Health, Social Justice and Anti-Racism at the Rady School of Health Sciences, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Manitoba in 2020, she has also served as the public health lead of the First Nations Pandemic Coordination Team.

Anderson said her work with the pandemic response team, both collecting and analyzing data and striving to share accurate information about COVID-19 with Indigenous peoples and communities, has shown her and other medical experts that race and ethnicity do matter play a role in the level of care Manitoba residents receive from the healthcare system.

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“Manitoba has been a leader in using data to show the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racist communities,” Anderson said.

Beginning in April this year, through a new program led by Anderson, patients in Manitoba hospitals will be asked to voluntarily declare their ethnic identity by asking them to choose from a list of indigenous identities, including First Nations, Inuit, or Métis, or other identities such as Black, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, or White.

According to Anderson, countries like the United States, Australia and England all collect racial identifiers as part of health data, and she said, “Canada now recognizes the need for this type of information.”

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“We hope that the public will see the benefits of participating, as they did when we collected these identifiers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Anderson said.

“Self-declaration is a way to be counted as a member of your racial or ethnic community and to contribute to health research.”

A University of Manitoba study published in 2019 states that the “health gap” between Native and non-Native people in that province is widening, as it shows an 11-year age difference between life expectancy for Native and non-Native people. compared to a gap of seven years recorded in 2002.

Monika Warren, Chief Nursing Officer at Shared Health, welcomed the new program and said she believes it will help that province’s health care system better understand how race and ethnicity affect health care in Manitoba.

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“Collecting this demographic data is essential for measuring health disparities resulting from systemic racism, prejudice and discrimination,” Warren said.

Warren also made it clear that nobody in Manitoba is forced to reveal their ethnic identity when visiting a hospital unless they choose to, but she hopes people will consider offering the information.

“Although 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,” Warren said.

Manitoba Health Secretary Audrey Gordon said collecting racial data in hospitals will be valuable as the province looks for ways to address and combat inequalities in health care and health outcomes, and to combat racism in the health care system.

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“This important initiative will inform healthcare leadership decisions in tackling inequalities and improving patient experiences across the province,” said Gordon.

“There is zero tolerance for racism in our healthcare system, and our healthcare system is committed to providing safe and inclusive patient care.”

Beginning in April, racial and ethnic information will be collected as a routine part of patient registration at hospitals, including emergency departments, across Manitoba, according to the province.

– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter based out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Canadian government.

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