As women living in the United States, I’m sure we have all been to the doctors and physicians who have these amazing mission statements about quality care, equality and just systems.
But, have you ever actually experienced it? Probably not, especially if you are a black woman living in the United States. Black women are much more likely to receive mal treatment in the healthcare system than white women simply because of their skin color. This unethical treatment has been going on for decades and is a trend that is sadly not slowing down.
Why is this?
Simply stated, Implicit Bias.
What is it?
“Attitudes and stereotypes affect our understanding, actions, and behavior in an unconscious manner” (Kirwan Institute for the Race & Ethnicity)
Implicit Bias is something that develops early on in life and normally does not change. Once you are caught up in your ways, that’s it. This is extremely dangerous in the healthcare system as you cannot have biases that can negatively affect others. The New England Journal of Medicine explained this whole idea in just a few sentences.
“A review of studies involving physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals found that health care providers’ implicit racial bias is associated with diagnostic uncertainty and, for Black patients, negative ratings of their clinical interactions, less patient-centeredness, poor provider communication, undertreatment of pain, views of Black patients as less medically adherent than White patients, and other ill effects.” (Janice A. Sabin)
Due to these negative biases, black women especially do not get nearly the same care as a white woman.
This can be for any case scenario.
Examples of how implicit bias plays out in health care include:
- Non-white patients receive fewer cardiovascular interventions and fewer renal transplants
- Black women are more likely to die after being diagnosed with breast cancer
- Non-white patients are less likely to be prescribed pain medications (non-narcotic and narcotic)
- Patients of color are more likely to be blamed for being too passive about their health care
Another example of this malpractice in the United States healthcare system is maternal mortality rates. The chart below, published in 2022 from the CDC gives an easy visual of just how substantial these numbers really are. We can see that this maternal mortality rate is easily over 50% more likely to happen to non-hispanic black women versus non hispanic white women. This is truly a devastating statistic.
All of these complications and maltreatments are easily preventable, and yet these women are constantly fighting for their lives, most likely alone. This is extremely sad but also, just imagine the impact this has on their mental health. These beautiful women are going through life in such a way that most people will never even experience once. Women go to get care for serious, life threatening things and come out even more mentally or physically broken then when they arrived simply because of the lack of treatment at these hospitals.
How do we put an end to this?
Well, change doesn’t happen overnight, but it sure starts. A couple ways to combat this issue is acknowledgement. I know, I know, this seems redundant, but, if we don’t acknowledge the issue in the first place, we will see no change…ever.
The first step is addressing it in the healthcare system and establishing rules and regulations that MUST be adhered to. This could help lower these rates of mortality, lack of necessary intervention and death in black women across the United States. This is an issue that is seen nationwide and has never been truly addressed.
Along with this we need to stand together and get these rules and regulations established to put an end to this maltreatment and inequality for black women all across the United States.
Concluding Thoughts: Regardless of the issue or reason they came into the healthcare facility, more serious or just a simple check-up, it is crucial to have equality in every establishment in every area of the United States.
I hope you enjoyed this read and learned something you didn’t know before. Although this may not be an amazing, fun topic to talk about…it is a necessary one.
If you feel compelled to look into this deeper, here is the PDF version of the CDC study on Maternal Mortality in the United States:
Until next time, besties! ❤