Province to collect race data from patients

By Miranda Leybourne

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Prairie Mountain Health will soon begin collecting race-based information from hospital patients as Manitoba rolls out a new initiative, making it the first province in Canada to do so.

Race-based information will be collected voluntarily from patients during their intake at hospitals throughout Manitoba as part of an initiative that will then analyze the information to measure health disparities that result from systemic racism, bias and discrimination, Shared Health chief nursing officer Monica Warren stated in a Thursday news release.

Although the initiative is only in its preliminary stages and won’t begin until April, PMH chief executive officer Brian Schoonbaert told the Sun the health authority plans to participate in the initiative.

Dr. Marcia Anderson, executive director of Indigenous academic affairs at Ongomiizwin, the Indigenous Institute of Heath and Healing at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, is leading the initiative. Anderson said racial and ethnic disparities in access to health care and in overall health status exist all over Canada.

Manitoba has already been a leader in using data to show the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on racialized communities, Anderson said. First Nations people in Manitoba made up 40 to 60 per cent of all COVID-19 hospital admissions in the second and third waves of the pandemic, showing them to be more susceptible to infection for a number of reasons.

A March 2021 report from the province says risk factors included underlying health issues and overcrowded or inadequate housing, homelessness and barriers to accessing health care and social services. Systemic racism also played a role in Indigenous peoples’ ability to access proper and timely services and support.

The pandemic has had significant social, economic and health impacts on Indigenous people, according to a 2020 Statistics Canada report. Indigenous people reported worsened overall health, and in particular mental health, at rates higher than the non-Indigenous population. Reduced access to and use of health-care services may have also had disproportionate impacts on the health of Indigenous people, the report said, potentially making pre-pandemic health disparities worse.

“Now, Manitoba  will be the first province to systemically collect self-declared race-based data from patients as they access care,” Anderson said.

Under the new initiative, patients will be asked to voluntarily declare their identity, choosing from a list that includes First Nation, Inuit, Metis, Black, Filipino, southeast Asian, Middle Eastern or white.

While patients are free to deny disclosing information about their race, self-declaring is a way to be counted as a member of one’s racial or ethnic community and contribute to health research, Anderson said.

“We hope the public will see the benefits of participating.”

Health Minister Audrey Gordon, who was not available for an interview with the Sun, said the data collected from patients will influence health-care decisions aimed at addressing inequities and improving patients’ experience.

“There is zero tolerance for racism in our health-care system, and our health-care system is committed to provide safe and inclusive patient care,” Gordon said in the release.

Last year, the Canadian Institute for Health Information released pan-Canadian standards for the collection of race-based and Indigenous identity data in health systems. Manitoba joins countries such as the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, which collect racial identifiers as part of health data.

 Miranda Leybourne is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the

 BRANDON SUN. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.

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