In a time where healthcare innovation has made leaps and bounds, there are voices still going unheard in America. In general, Black women are most likely to suffer from health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. And yet, the topic has stayed out of public perspective for decades.
It’s no secret that medical disparities have plagued America with a noticeable focus on black women, but to what extent does this affect lives? According to the CDC, Black Women are 3x more likely to die during childbirth, and this is not a problem exclusive to low-income mothers.
Famous tennis athlete Serena Williams experienced a harrowing near-death experience herself: severe blood clotting after birth due to a temporary break from blood thinners after a C-section. After explaining to medical staff exactly what was wrong and what she needed she was subjected to unnecessary procedures before finally receiving proper care. For every story like hers, there are 10 more that go ignored and eventually forgotten.
Disparities in the field of medicine are the result of a system that has historically tied inhumane experiments such as those conducted by the Father of Gynecology Dr. J Marion Sims and inaccurate methods of treatment such as using race as a modifier for Kidney disease leading to countless black patients being underdiagnosed for kidney failure or lower on the list for a transplant.
As a member of Communitea, an initiative by nonprofit Advocates for Youth that engages Black women and girls to spread awareness of HIV, I find it vital to bring light to the fact medical racism is not a thing of the past.
Black Women are the 2nd largest population in the United States with HIV+ Statuses.
To examine this topic further I interviewed Cherisse Scott, founder of Sister Reach, a nonprofit focused on Sexual Health and Reproductive Justice in Tennessee and Illinois.
“When I opened Sister Reach, I didn’t understand why there was no focus on Black women, and I was told statistics didn’t show that Black women needed HIV education, medication, etc.”, Scott explains. This is a statement that we both immediately knew was false- there simply wasn’t any push for research. “Unfortunately, work in regards to HIV is usually done on the defense and not on the offense,” she says. In other words, it’s far more palatable to treat the symptoms rather than attack the problem- insufficient education and a lack of access to medical care. Medical distrust in the black community is the legacy of injustice, so in order to reach the most vulnerable, there needs to be a shift away from fostering implicit biases in staff to a technique that best serves patients' needs first.
It's only with more outcry for fair treatment that we can begin to address the systemic issues that plague healthcare. Supporting organizations like Communitea and SisterReach by backing petitions, donating, and speaking to local legislators is a step in the right direction for helping stop medical discrimination in its tracks.