Health Equity

Marina Kwak
Cultural bias in health care

Photo by Martine Jacobsen on Unsplash


Anti-Indigenous racism is not an issue which is confined to the Northwest Territories’ healthcare system. According to Dr. Janet Smylie, it is one of the biggest health inequities across Canada. She expressed her concerns over Indigenous people who are experiencing disabilities or dying unnecessarily. She also said that cultural bias can lead to higher rates of commercial tobacco use for First Nation, Inuit, and Métis people as they are not receiving the same public-health messages as other Canadians. She discusses how these health inequities and cultural bias are due to implicit or unconscious racism which is the most profound, yet invisible, form of racism. There are several ways to combat the problem: for example, the US has developed intervention techniques that frame racism as a bad habit that can be broken by catching oneself when one is stereotyping, and by going outside one’s comfort zone via attending events that one would not normally attend. The need for cultural training for healthcare providers has been one recommendation stemming from an external investigation into the death of Aklavik elder Hugh Papik.  Although protocols are being developed and important discussions are taking place, this is not something that can change in a short period of time. Nonetheless, it is an important step towards health equity.  

-Marina Kwak