The Silent Epidemic
Putting supports in place that are culturally appropriate
(Originally published, February 2020, ASNS In the Loop Quarterly Newsletter)
By: Charisma Grace – Project Coordinator, Education & Outreach - African Nova Scotian Communities
In 2014, the government set out to create a provincial dementia strategy; they spoke to Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other, about their experience with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. From those conversations a provincial dementia strategy was created and launched in 2015. One of the actions from the strategy was to engage ‘...underrepresented populations to identify needs and develop culturally specific programs and supports.’ But what does that mean and how would an organization work on that specifically?
At the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia it meant focusing on partnerships and finding volunteer champions within specific communities. The African Nova Scotia Dementia Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia (ASNS) and the Health Association of African Canadians (HAAC). The latter was founded in 2000 with the aim of addressing African Canadian health issues and the system inequities affecting health.
“According to the Alzheimer Association in the United States, People of African descent are two to three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. They call it the silent epidemic,” says Kirstie Creighton, Program Development Manager at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. “Yet there has been no specific support to meet their needs.”
This partnership is essential in addressing barriers to equitable health care usually experienced by racialized groups such as the African Nova Scotian communities. “Although HAAC and People of African Ancestry are still waiting for the health system to collect race and ethnicity specific health data, we would like to commend the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia for moving forward with the African Nova Scotian Dementia Initiative which clearly addresses a health need.” says Davis-Murdoch, HAAC co-founder.
The Alzheimer Society is committed to providing supports, programs and services that are culturally specific and tailored to meet the unique needs of African Canadians. The Society has developed, designed and are now implementing the African Nova Scotian Dementia Initiative in consultation and collaboration with HAAC.
The aim of the initiative is to provide culturally specific education about dementia and increase awareness of the programs and services provided by the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. Since launching in August 2019, 10 workshops have been held throughout the province in Whitney Pier, Antigonish, New Glasgow, Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough, Truro, Birchtown, Shelburne, Greenville, Yarmouth and Halifax.
“Engaging with communities of People of African Ancestry has been a tremendous success,” says Davis-Murdoch, “and a positive indication that members of communities desire support for their dementia journey and would benefit greatly from culturally specific programs and services.”
Ever evolving, there are learnings from this partnership that can be used to support other diverse populations. It’s this quote from a workshop participant the best sums up the need for culturally specific programming:
“Excellent Presentation! It was great to have a presenter who looked like me and who understood and experience my culture and life's journey. She was more than competent and knowledgeable. Thank you!!”