Our guest, Biba Tinga, is President and Executive Director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada.
We initially spoke with Biba to ask for her reflections on the Equity and Diversity episode with Nav Persaud. But once we started talking, we realized that Biba’s experience as an advocate was almost a perfect case study of what we’ve been talking about – the importance of focusing on health equity, as opposed to comparatively simple notions of diversity. So even though this episode is an extension of the Patient Partner Reflections segment in the previous episode, it also gets into some of the realities of advocating for policy change to support the health needs of a racialized group – one that is disproportionately affected by a rare disease, and is not well supported by our Canadian health care system.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder. And according to Health Canada, it can shorten the life of affected individuals by more than 30 years. It’s caused by abnormally shaped red blood cells that can impair blood flow, causing strokes, lung disease and organ damage. In Canada, around 5000 people live with sickle cell disease, and it most commonly affects people of African descent, as well as Caribbean, Latin or South American, Middle Eastern and South Asian descent.