A new report reveals important findings about access to primary health care for black women and women of colour in Ontario. The report entitled “A Collaborative Process to Achieve Access to Primary Health Care for Black Women and Women of Colour” was developed through a partnership of Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre and the Factor-Intenwash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto with collaboration from Sistering – A Woman’s Place; Planning Parenthood of Toronto; Rexdale Community Health Centre; Parkdale Community Health Centre; and funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care through the Primary Health Care Transition Fund.
Based on the researchers’ understanding, this study produced the largest available data set to date about barriers, challenges and recommendations to facilitate equitable, timely and cost-effective access to primary care for Black women and women of colour. It collected data through surveys, focus groups, and interviews with 226 service users and 12 service providers from the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. Participants were of African, Caribbean, South Asian, Latin American, mixed race/ethnicity or other ethno-racial backgrounds. Ninety percent of all participants were born outside of Canada, and 79 percent live in poverty. The study included a focus on specific priority populations and so included a significant number of women with disabilities, lesbian or bisexual women, those identifying as HIV positive, and homeless or under-housed women.
Results show that:
- There are multiple ways that primary health care services are not designed to accommodate the demands of these women’s lives, including, for example, a lack of disability accommodations and language interpretation services;
- Women often anticipate encountering racism, homophobia, stigma and other types of social exclusion when facing healthcare situations, contributing to an aversion to healthcare;
- Identified facilitators of access to health care included friends, family, community-based nurses, social workers and social services personnel;
- Service dimensions that promoted greater equity in access included women service providers; helpful intake staff; staff who speak the same language; staff of varied cultural backgrounds; and respect for race, gender, culture and other aspects of identity.
Based on initial study findings, a pilot program to increase support for homeless/under-housed women was developed. The pilot activities included primary health care services at a women’s drop-in centre, a “Navigator” to facilitate women’s involvement in the study, information for clients about their rights, and training for service providers on homelessness, mental health and anti-oppression. Through the pilot, primary health care access was secured for 130 women.
For more information and the full report, visit the Women’s Health in Women’s Hands website at www.whiwh.com.