Real pain?…Or Nah?

My silent struggle as a Black Woman with Healthcare

Ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare are prevalent in a large portion of the population in America. The demographic in which I’m referencing would be the 50 percent of women, specifically minority, in this country who have faced various challenges when receiving essential healthcare needs.

By definition, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), health disparities are defined as “population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to healthcare.”

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Data shows that Black women are more likely to be ignored or dismissed by physicians in comparison to their white counterparts.

Researchers suggest that health disparities are influenced by socio-economic status, health behaviors related to culture, access to health care, environmental factors, and direct and indirect manifestations of discrimination.

At an early age I was diagnosed with Discoid Lupus, one of the four different types: systemic, discoid, neo-natal and drug induced Lupus, with the most common form being Systemic Lupus due to the severity of its attack on internal organs often resulting in emergency care.

“At every doctor visit I found myself pleading to be believed that my pain was severe.”

Recently, I experienced a flair up with debilitating joint pain with active sores across my face and body. Once the physician began to assess me and the concerns I had she immediately dismissed every one.

“Your pain shouldn’t should be that bad because you don’t have the real Lupus,” is what she told me.

Needless to say I began the search of a new physician, a practice I am far too familiar with. Although it may seem excessive, we as black women must ask questions upon questions and to not be afraid of getting a second opinion. Black women are often dismissed, ignored or even chastised when reporting pain or concerns. The color of your skin could be the difference between life and death.

According to study entitled “Health Disparities among African American Women” by Movement is Life, a group dedicated to raising awareness to health disparities in minorities, bias plays a major role in the continuation of disparities. The report asserts that there are two types of biases, explicit and implicit, that can negatively impact communication as well as care offered to minorities.

“An explicit bias is the kind of attitude or belief that someone deliberately thinks about or is aware of having; it accounts for many cases of discrimination and should not be tolerated…. An implicit bias can be summed up as positive or negative assumptions made about another person based on prevalent cultural stereotypes that someone embraces on an unconscious level,” the report reads.

The study offers some helpful terminology associated with unconscious bias to gain a further understanding of how they manifest through behavior:

These factors play directly into the impact of health disparities building distrust in the healthcare system. The report expands upon the relationship being strained due in large part by the belief in Black patients that they will not receive the same quality of care as White patients resulting in minorities seeking alternative avenues in healing.

“Although efforts have been made; healthcare providers continue to struggle with adapting to different cultural beliefs and practices and demonstrating respect for others’ viewpoints about health and illness.”

Ultimately, it is up to us to take charge in our health and demand quality treatments, medication, and care. Asking question upon questions and do not be afraid of getting a second opinion can be the difference between life and death in certain cases.

We must force physicians to take our symptoms seriously the first time given. Early detection is the key to saving lives.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

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