Best Health : 2020-11-01

STORIES FROM THE GAP : 45 : 43

STORIES FROM THE GAP

OCTOBER NOVEMBER | HERE IS A SHOCKING lack of large-scale, race-based health data in Canada — but what little informatio­n we do have paints a bleak picture for Black women. Dr. Notisha Massaquoi, a health equity expert and former executive director of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre in Toronto, says Black Canadian women have up to five times the rate of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease compared to white women. Black women also stand an increased risk of developing conditions such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia during pregnancy and delivery. Research from the University of Toronto found that Black Canadian women — particular­ly those from sub-Saharan Africa — are likely being underscree­ned for cervical and breast cancer despite data from the United States and England showing they are predispose­d to worse outcomes from the disease. And most recently, we’ve learned that COVID-19 is disproport­ionately hitting the Black population in Toronto, with a new study finding that Black people account for 22 percent of reported cases, despite making up only nine percent of the overall city population. There are countless factors playing into these outcomes, and as the U of T paper made clear, we need more data in order to meaningful­ly parse these findings. But Massaquoi argues that marginaliz­ation within the health-care system starts with the myriad ways society fails Black people in general. We spoke to women on both sides of the system to explore some of the often invisible forces that widen the health gap for Black women in Canada. Undertreat­ed and ignored Amoy Jacques’s decades-long journey to an endometrio­sis diagnosis started when she was a young teen. “I always THE OFTEN INVISIBLE FORCES THAT SHAPEHEALT­H CARE FOR BLACK WOMEN by TAYO BERO PAIN, DISMISSIVE DOCS T