Racism is a Healthcare Issue
A multitude of disparities exist in our healthcare systems but one of the most pressing, systemic and unsettling ones lies in the quality of care, treatment and outcomes of black women relative to their non-black counterparts. This is especially true in the fields of obstetrics where black mothers-to-be are often plagued with stereotypes that can ultimately affect their lives and their baby’s lives and wellbeing.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) differences in regards to access to healthcare used to be more pronounced between races but fortunately, these gaps have progressively gotten smaller over the past couple of decades. Statistics show relatively equal rates for frequency of pap smears, frequency of mammograms, and gestational age when beginning prenatal care for women regardless of the color of their skin. Unfortunately, health treatments and outcomes do not reflect these same trends.
ACOG notes that the prevalence of coexisting health issues, socioeconomic elements and factors surrounding access to healthcare for black women play a role but aren’t enough to explain these persistent disparities. In a committee opinion, linked below, they concluded that the effects of racial and implicit bias are also to blame. Harmful stereotypes like the assumption of poverty and lack of intellect, the “mad black woman” or the “strong black woman” can often invalidate the needs of black women in healthcare settings. This translates to different and inherently unequal standards of care for black women all over the country resulting in continuously worse health outcomes in many fields, not just obstetrics.
At OB/GYN Ultrasound we are devoted to educating ourselves on the needs of all of our patients, including black women. We realize that our country’s history of racial inequities in all systems can make it hard for black women to trust providers in the healthcare system but, as a small practice, we are committed to doing our best to make our impact on ensuring equal acknowledgement and treatment for our patients regardless of race, sexuality or religious/political beliefs. We know that until all Black Lives Matter, “All lives matter” is a faulty statement.
Obstetrics: field of medicine and surgery concerned with childbirth and care of pregnant women
Disparity: a great difference
Gestational age: how long a woman has been pregnant for, typically measured in weeks
Implicit bias: attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner