A new directory of black health professionals across Canada was launched Thursday, and the creators of the database say its goal is to help improve access to professionals for black Canadians who often struggle to find providers. understand their background.
The directory was created by the Black Healthcare Professionals Network, an organization founded in 2021 to advance the careers of black healthcare professionals and participate in advocacy.
Dr. Nikolai Whyte, the network’s co-founder and CEO, says the organization wanted to launch the directory not only to increase access to providers, but also to build a network among professionals.
“It helps create an ecosystem within the black health care space where other providers can meet and start collaborating,” said Whyte, who works as a family physician.
Health care providers voluntarily list themselves in the directory and are vetted to ensure their licenses are up to date, the network says. The goal is for the directory to include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, psychotherapists, dietitians, massage therapists, and other professionals.
Contact information for each provider is on the website and patients can contact them directly, according to a directory news release.
Whyte says the directory is especially important in light of research showing that for blacks, health care outcomes may depend on the race of both provider and patient. The network points to research published by the Association of American Medical Colleges that indicates that the experiences of black patients were improved with physicians of the same race. Matching black patients with doctors who are also black helps Combat medical racism that has sometimes occurred when blacks are treated by white providers, according to research..
One study in particular, led by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, found that in a survey of 1,300 black men in Californiapatients assigned to a black doctor were more likely to raise specific health issues than those who did not discuss with other doctors.
The researchers suggested that the patients might have felt more comfortable opening up to the black doctors, as they made them feel more “at ease.”
In Toronto, a community health center focused on Black Scarborough residents found similar benefits as of 2013. A pilot project at the TAIBU Center aimed to increase cancer screening through culturally sensitive materials featuring diverse staff , multilingual brochures and black vendors. The center said it could increase their screenings from 2013 to 2018 because of the program, doctors said in a 2021 article about his findings.
The doctors who led the study told Breaking: in 2021 that they hoped their methods could be used as a model for increasing screening in diverse communities, which tend not to be screened for cancer.
Build trust between patients and providers
Paul Bailey, executive director of the Black Health Alliance, a Toronto-based charity that aims to improve the health of black communities, said patients sometimes struggle to find doctors who understand their needs.
“We often get multiple contacts a week, just in our general inbox, looking for black doctors, and they’re coming from people all over the country,” said Bailey, who is not connected to the registry.
He said the directory is a “good opportunity to try to provide a space where clients, patients and other providers can find doctors.”
“Our understanding is that if people find the kind of doctors or health care providers who understand their needs, they are more likely to follow up and comply with the interventions that are given to them,” he said.
On top of that, many people in racialized communities mistrust the health care system and may avoid care because of it, Whyte said. In 2022, the Canadian Medical Association Journal acknowledged that anti-black racism in Canadian healthcare is a problem, noting that racial stereotyping has led to poor care delivery, fueling mistrust in the system.
The magazine acknowledged that it engages in harmful practices, including the lack of representation of black experts in the magazine.
Having a provider who understands a person’s cultural background can increase trust, Whyte said.
The tool ‘can be used by everyone’
Abena Addo, who also co-founded the network and co-created the directory, said she hopes all Canadians find the database useful, as it’s hard to find a provider, regardless of race.
“There is a shortage of family doctors, so this is a way that everyone can use the tool,” he said.
It also highlights what black health care providers have to offer, he said.
“We’re actually elevating these healthcare professionals who are sometimes not on the front lines,” he said. “This directory is a great way for them to showcase their business.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians, from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community, check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.