Advocates hope Preston-area nursing home will inspire better Black health care
Community health workers say recently announced plans for a new nursing home geared toward Black seniors should inspire a network within the Nova Scotia health-care system that is better attuned to the needs of Black people.
Sharon Davis-Murdoch, the co-founder of the Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC), says there’s a need for culturally competent health care for Black patients, including those living in long-term care.
“We heard from Black people who would talk about the need for care that understands their skin, their hair — care that is respectful of them and responsive to the impact of the trauma and the harm that our people have endured,” said Davis-Murdoch.
Her former HAAC counterpart, Veronica Marsman, is now the executive director of Akoma Holdings Inc., the non-profit organization that will lease land for the project.
Elizabeth Obeng Nkrumah, a wellness navigator who works with a health-care service for Black Nova Scotian women called Sisterhood, says she would like to see a concerted effort to hire local community members to work at the home.
“They understand where they are coming from, their lived experiences, and also seeing someone who looks like you brings some peace and safety to whoever is walking into the space,” she said.
Davis-Murdoch also made the case for Black representation among the staff, saying that Black communities have higher rates of certain illnesses that experienced health-care providers of the community would know to look for.
For instance, Black Canadians are two times mores likely than white Canadians to have diabetes, according to a report by Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency attributes the discrepancy to systemic inequalities in health determinants, which include education, income and housing.
Obeng Nkrumah says though the home will be open to seniors of all races and ethnicities, she wants to see programming that is Afrocentric.
“I’ve seen that there are a lot of programs in a community that has to do with drumming and music and poetry, and most of our communities are very spiritual, so I do see that there would be a need to have various programs around that.”
Davis-Murdoch also said the goal for the nursing home, and the entire provincial health network system, should be to incorporate anti-racist policy, justice and fairness in its health-care planning.
“What we’re looking for is not a cookie-cutter or a one-size fits all approach. What we’re looking for is an approach … that is available to our people from one end of the province to the other.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.