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Fraser Health launching equity, diversity and inclusion strategy

Plans unveiled during Sept. 27 board meeting
Fraser Health Authority discussed its equity, diversity and inclusion strategy at a Sept. 27 board meeting. | Facebook screenshot

Fraser Health disclosed its continuous commitment to foster equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) within its healthcare system in a board meeting on Sept. 27.

Dr. Ingrid Tyler, executive medical director for population and public health, expressed that Fraser Health is continually striving to improve its equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts and is currently updating its strategy and action plans to create a more EDI healthcare system.

With approximately two million people within its region, Fraser Health currently serves the most linguistically and culturally diverse population in the province. According to the region’s data, 36 per cent of the population consists of immigrants to Canada, and among them, 50 per cent are visible minorities.

“For me, equity is about ensuring equal opportunity for health. Diversity recognizes differences between people and individuals, and inclusion ensures that everyone is visible, heard, and considered,” said Tyler.

Recognizing that race, gender, and language are visible differences that form part of the equity, diversity, and inclusion challenges, Fraser Health understands that social factors such as income, housing, and education can greatly impact people’s lives and healthcare experiences.

Fraser Health combines EDI into its practices, with initiatives such as collaborating with the First Nation Health Authority and Fraser Salish Health Council to develop anti-racism action plans to strengthen cultural safety while incorporating compassionate leadership and communication transparency.

Fraser Health also conducts Indigenous recruitment programs, inclusive language in job postings, policy reforms, mandatory equity considerations in policies, and comprehensive training opportunities.

To ensure all individuals within Fraser Health are treated with dignity and respect, free from discrimination and harassment, Fraser Health offers various education and capacity-building opportunities for staff and medical professionals, covering cultural and religious literacy, diversity competence, and workshops related to specific equity-seeking communities.

Last year, more than 6,000 staff attended online-related education while 1,500 others attended in-person sessions.

“Our policy outlines details related to commitment, and failure of any individuals to maintain this respectful conduct may lead to disciplinary action, including termination of employment,” Tyler added.

To better improve patient experiences, Fraser Health offers whole-person care support through its spiritual health program, addresses language barriers with a language services program, and conducts real-time patient experience surveys in multiple languages.

Fraser Health is actively working on creating inclusive environments, promoting gender-inclusive spaces, incorporating Indigenous design into buildings, displaying land acknowledgments, and supporting cultural practices such as smudging ceremonies.

Regarding health equity, Fraser Health focuses on specific populations by offering specialized clinics for newcomers and refugees. There are also targeted public health services, gender-affirming care, and programs to address racism within primary care settings.

Additionally, Fraser Health provides services and support for homeless and under-housed populations through the Integrated Homelessness Action Response Team, along with mental health, substance use services, and trauma-informed practices.

“We wouldn’t be able to suggest that we are in a position to do EDI or anti-racism work without involving those who have been affected by racism, discrimination, or lack of inclusion,” Tyler said.

Fraser Health’s new EDI strategy, set to be available in spring 2024, will aim to establish equitable environments for both those serving in and being served by the organization.