I’ve talked about inequity in healthcare with LBGTQIA+ folx, but did you know that BIPOC healthcare is also not up to par? It goes beyond lack of knowledge of BIPOC health conditions and their bodies, and as far as lack of healthcare access in communities around the U.S.
What is the difference about BIPOC Healthcare?
Health Disparities are the differences that disadvantaged social groups, i.e. BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and women, experience social discrimination and disadvantages and as a result are dealt greater health risks than more advantaged groups.
To understand the differences that BIPOC face in healthcare, you must first understand what health disparities are and how they work. Geography, race/ethnicity, and income all contribute to health disparities. BIPOC face worsened health outcomes, a greater chance and severity of diseases, and more difficulty in procuring healthcare services.
Part of the issue in BIPOC healthcare boils down to a lack of knowledge about BIPOC and their bodies. Why do our healthcare providers not know more about the bodies of BIPOC? Simply put – they aren’t taught about it.
In a 2018 study of four anatomy books that are commonly used in medical schools, dark skin tones only made up about 5% of the anatomy illustrations in those books. In that same study, it was found that Black people appeared in less than a quarter of the images depicting cancer – which is concerning given that they have the higher mortality rate in six of the common types of cancer (cervical, colon, prostate, skin, lung, and breast.)
The lack of illustrations and information in these textbooks makes it difficult for medical providers to provide adequate healthcare to BIPOC; if they don’t know what diseases and conditions look like on or in their patients, how are they supposed to properly treat them?
BIPOC healthcare also takes a hit when you look at American healthcare overall – until the 1950s (and still in instances today) we faced a lack of information caused by past slavery, deportation of Hispanic immigrants, lack of womens-rights, Jim Crow laws, Indian removal and more. To put it bluntly, we created a divide and it forced us to become ignorant to the healthcare disparities faced by multiple groups of people.
What needs to be done to change BIPOC Healthcare for the better?
We’ve got a long way to go in order to make BIPOC healthcare equitable in the U.S. But, having this discussion – yep, you reading this blog right now, is one of the first steps.
Although just talking about it isn’t going to fix it. Providing better access, more affordable options, and more knowledgeable healthcare providers are all necessary.
BIPOC healthcare needs advocacy and promotion to diverse communities, may that be through programs and organizations, or through education in grade schools and universities.
Healthcare providers need to learn how to treat BIPOC and educate themselves and their staff on their healthcare disparities and inequities.
The more opportunities that are presented and the more widely this information is spread, the smaller the gap will become.
How I’m fighting BIPOC healthcare inequities from the perspective of pelvic floor health.
I will never stop advocating for my patients, no matter their gender, sexual identity, race, or ethnicity.
If you’re a healthcare provider and you want to help reduce the BIPOC healthcare inequities, here’s a few steps that I take and believe we should all be implementing:
- Offer flexible treatment plans
- Ensure you’re accessible by offering both in person and virtual appointments
- Educate yourself about BIPOC healthcare and re-learn medical information to gain knowledge about BIPOC people and the conditions they may have
- Collaborate with BIPOC and inclusive healthcare leaders on issues that affect the BIPOC community.
- Research and use anatomy and health related illustrations that are inclusive and feature all skin tones, ethnicities, and races.
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