Perception exhibit by Visual artist KC Adams.

“’Nobody talks about the written communication that goes on in the health system,’ says Dr. Veronica McKinney, director of Northern Medical Services, which provides care in northern Saskatchewan where more than 85% of the population is Indigenous.

‘Examining why we are writing or using the terms that we do – that makes physicians feel uncomfortable,’ says McKinney, who has Cree and Métis ancestry. Yet, ‘it’s particularly important in health care because we like to think of ourselves as scientists – as very objective and not having biases – but in reality, we’re human and we all do.’

Perception exhibit by Visual artist KC Adams.

Last fall, the American Medical Association released a guide on equity-focused language as a ‘starting point for reflection.’ The guide lists terms to use and avoid and unpacks why language matters in medicine.

‘Words reflect and shape our thinking,’ as well as the narratives that people take for granted about race, power, health, and medicine, the authors explain. Unexamined narratives that uphold the status quo limit the questions clinicians ask, the solutions they develop and how they describe problems.”

Learn more on How doctors describe patients matters – even in their notes via CMAJ.

Read more on Winnipeg’s new art project stares down racism in the face: How a bold art project projected on Winnipeg’s downtown buildings will challenge perceptions of its Aboriginal citizens via Maclean’s.

Access Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts via AMA Center for Health Equity.

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