On June 8th, Toronto Public Health declared anti-Black racism a public health crisis. All the research continues to show race/racism is a social determinant of health. Sadly, that means if you are a person of colour you will likely face more barriers to care. That just isn’t right.
On June 10, you received an email from the Alzheimer Society stating our commitment to addressing systemic racism in our community. As a community serving organization, it is important for our voice to join this important issue—to both amplify the voices of those combatting racism and to do our part in confronting our own culpability.
In this message, we outlined the steps we are taking to approach racism and discrimination within our own organization and opened the floor to you, our donors, clients and partners, to provide us with your thoughts and feedback.
We didn’t know how you, our donors, clients and partners, would react to our message. Some people were unhappy with us for supporting Black Lives Matter. Some thought we were “jumping on the bandwagon”, “aligning with Antifa”, “talking about a political issue that has nothing to do with Alzheimer’s”. And we heard some positive things too, “way to go, it is about time”, “best message I have seen” and “great to see more than just lip service”. Each message was answered personally in hopes to continue a conversation about why it is important to identify how we support anti-racism work in the health care system.
It is important to keep talking about racism and discrimination. About how race negatively affects health outcomes. About how race negatively affects access to services. About how race negatively affects all aspects of a person’s life. We found a great video that we think highlights it so well.
Based on your comments and the symposium report on the Black Experience in Healthcare (2020), here is what we have undertaken so far:
- Many of us have immersed ourselves in learning—webinars, books, documentaries, and articles—and the learning continues.
- We have conducted an education session on systemic racism for the leadership members of the Alzheimer Societies in Ontario (there are 29 local Alzheimer Societies in the province).
- Understanding: We are beginning to collect race-based data throughout our First Link program to help us better understand the demographics of our clients so we can ask the right questions about the groups of people we know are missing from the clients we serve.
- Open Conversations: We have discussed systemic racism and white privilege openly at our staff meeting—and this will be an on-going discussion.
- Training Programs: We will launch a training program in September for leadership across the province on understanding race.
We understand that race is not the only reason people experience discrimination. We believe by learning about how the overall system of inequity has developed and continues to be perpetuated, we can begin to ensure inclusivity for all.
As always, we would appreciate your feedback about how we can continue to learn and change our approach. You can reply to this message with comments or suggestions. We want everyone to feel welcome at the Alzheimer Society, and we will not stop until they are.
Thanks for your support.
Interim Chief Executive Officer
Alzheimer Society of Toronto
Call me directly: 416-640-6314
Email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org