In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month and by 2008, thanks to, now retired Nova Scotia Senator Donald Oliver, Q.C. the Senate officially declared February as Black History Month. We now refer to it as African Heritage Month across the country.
On February 10 and 11, in honour of African Heritage Month, the Global Health Office at Dalhousie University with the Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC), Cancer Care Nova Scotia, Capital Health and Dalhousie University’s African Nova Scotian Advisory Committee, welcomed Dr. David R. Williams, an expert on racism and health from Harvard University to Halifax.
Dr. Williams is internationally recognized for his research on understanding how race, racial discrimination, socioeconomic status and religion affect physical and mental health. He is the Florence and Laura Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health and a professor of Sociology and African and African-American Studies and professor of Sociology at Harvard University.
It is significant that the global health office and Dalhousie were part of this initiative as it is important for all students, staff a faculty to gain a better understanding of the determinants of health and in particular how they relate to marginalized members of our community. This event also highlighted the need to ensure that Dalhousie students are prepared to work in a diverse world by providing opportunities to enhance cultural competence and humility.
During his Dr. Williams met with the African Nova Scotian Advisory Committee and presented current research on how race, racial discrimination, and socioeconomics affect physical and mental health. This information was shared with front-line healthcare professionals, the academic community and policy makers. The focus of these discussions examined the gaps and opportunities for research as well as the roles of provincial and district health authorities to decrease health inequities and increasing quality of care. Dr. Williams also presented to the community offering the hard facts about racism and health that resonated with the audience as they nodded in agreement and began to understand their role in advocating for their own health and that of the community.
The partners were supported with funding from Diversity and Social Inclusion, Primary Health Care, Department of Health and Wellness.
Dr. Williams’ presentations are available at www.africancanadianhealth.ca.