Executive Director, Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario
Dr. David Esho
The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario and the Black Health Alliance collaborated with community members and multiple health partners to develop unique clinical models that improved vaccination numbers amongst Black Ontarians.
The Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario (BPAO) is leading the charge to deliver culturally sensitive care that African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) communities deserve. At the onset of the pandemic, BPAO and the Black Health Alliance (BHA) stepped up to fill the healthcare inequities by educating and vaccinating the community through the Black Health Vaccination Initiative (BHVI).
“If not us then who,” says Chenai Kadungure, Executive Director of BPAO. As the organization representing Black physicians in the province, they immediately understood how COVID-19 would disproportionately affect ACB communities and swiftly staged clinical interventions using their expertise. As a result, both agencies successfully ran over 320 community events, administered more than 75,000 vaccines by ACB physicians and collaborated with more than 29 community partners to achieve this feat.
Building health infrastructure on culture and empathy
Delivering and designing culturally sensitive care in a complex health ecosystem required open collaboration between BPAO, BHA, community health centers (CHC), government and corporate sponsors and ACB community members.
In 2021, ACB communities represented 4.3 per cent of Canada’s population, half of which resides in Ontario. Black physicians are underrepresented in health care, making up 2.3 per cent of professionals in Ontario, which limits access to culturally sensitive care and perpetuates the widespread harm and negligence Black patients often experience. As a result, ACB communities distrust the traditional healthcare system, preventing them from seeking medical attention and living with untreated conditions instead.
Before the organizations launched their clinics, they engaged with the community at barber shops, churches and mosques to gain insight into how best to serve their needs. Concurrently, they liaised with various CHC and cultural associations to paint a complete picture of the communities’ healthcare journey and how to work with the existing infrastructure.
The visibility of Black physicians makes a difference
Dr. David Esho is a family physician and lead for BHVI, who shared that resilient partnerships are key to sustainable community programs. One of the first clinics launched in partnership with the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA), Caribbean African and Canadian Social Services (CAFCAN) and Black Creek Community Health Center (BCCH) delivered a unique model that allowed patients to have greater time for dialogue with physicians, seats for people to wait and music to keep things lively. There was a slight rush on the opening day during the morning from curious individuals, who later returned in the afternoon with their family and friends, gathering over 2000 people on that day alone. ACB communities want to take care of their health, and seeing a room filled with Black healthcare providers made a difference in taking this initiative.
BPAO and BHA propel change through data-driven solutions
After vaccination initiatives slowed down, BHVI transformed into the Black Health Wellness Initiative (BHWI) to address the broader health and wellness needs lacking in the traditional healthcare ecosystem. Through BHVI, BPAO worked closely with the BHA as a strategist who facilitated connections with the right community partners. Together they collaborate and collect disaggregated data to make informed decisions that better health outcomes for ACB communities.
BPAO continues to work with BHA and other partners to run programs like Black Health Talks and wellness fairs to restore their community’s faith in their collective capacity to create change.
To learn more, donate, or partner with BPAO, visit bpao.org.