Subtle forms of racism and discrimination impede access to health care and the quality of health care received by visible minorities

This is one of the main conclusions of the Transcultural Health Conference organized in part by The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC

Montreal February 12, 2008: Health care providers and administrators need to recognize and work to counter-act subtle forms of racism and discrimination inherent in health care in order to make access to care and the quality of care better for members of cultural communities. This is one of the conclusions of the May 2007 Transcultural Health Conference organized by The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC in collaboration with national partners. Over two hundred participants including healthcare practitioners, educators, community workers, administrators and policy makes attended the two-day national conference entitled “Advancing Knowledge, Strategy and Connectedness in Healthcare Across Cultures.”

"The conference emphasized, among others, our need to be patient and work on specific ideas an individual may have about our healthcare system by acknowledging contradictions in a non-confrontational manner, " says Dr. Klaus Minde, co-chair of the conference and a psychiatrist at The Montreal Children’s Hospital.

The goal of the conference was to identify effective ways of providing health care across cultures, discuss national priorities and develop strategies to guide and support networks of diversity and intercultural expertise. During roundtable discussions on five key themes resulted in the recommendations that emphasize the need for a focused investment in “diversity education” thereby promoting the following actions:

  1. Raising racism awareness and the development of anti-racist policies and practices
  2. Providing diversity education on multileveled and multisectorial basis, educating healthcare administrators, clinicians and clerical personnel. Education should be extended to the employment and education sectors where similar issues apply)
  3. Ensuring representation of cultural communities in research through exploration of cultural practices, interpretation and compensation.
  4. Practicing cultural safety and participatory approaches in clinical encounters to enhance understanding on both sides and compliance in healthcare treatment.
  5. Development of accreditation and professional standards in cultural competence. This means mandatory courses with practice in cross-cultural intervention and periodic evaluation.
  6. Creation of a national Diversity Network with local satellites for consultation, research, lobbying and information exchange.

All of the above require the use and integration of interpreters and culture-brokers, as well as the development of accreditation and professional interpretation standards.

These discussions highlight the complexities in integrating newcomers and minorities into healthcare and other mainstream systems,” says Marie Serdynska, coordinator of the MCH Multiculturalism Program. “Barriers are created by our professional codes and ways of operating that we see as universal but can in fact be ethnocentric.”  

Cultural diversity challenges our assumption that one model of clinical service is sufficient to meet the needs of all patients. We need to develop innovative approaches that respect each person's individuality along with their ties to family and community,” says Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, Presiding Chair of Conference.

Click here to access the complete final report and recommendations from the National Transcultural Health Conference 

The Multiculturalism Program of The Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) of the MUHC and national partners organized Canada’s first National Transcultural Health Conference: The event was held in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the MCH’s Multiculturalism Program. The MCH was the first Canadian pediatric hospital to establish a multiculturalism program and continues to emphasize “respect for diversity” with plans to expand and harmonize existing services.

For more information please contact:

Lisa Dutton
Public Relations and Communications
The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC