By Delisa Skeete Henry, M.D., Obstetrician/Robotic Surgeon Broward Health Medical Center
As a Black woman and longtime physician, I am well aware personally and professionally of disparities in health care. To reduce inequalities and bridge the gap, I recently participated in a virtual forum hosted by The Broward County Library titled, “Break the Bias: Black Women’s Healthcare in Crisis” alongside other female physicians of color. Our goal was to shine a light on implicit biases and make lasting change, especially when it comes to those Black women who are pregnant or those young mothers who face daily challenges.
According to a recent study funded by the National Institute of Health, Black women experience higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity compared to non-minorities. These are pressing health issues that have dire short- and long-term consequences.
Unfortunately, Black women are also genetically predisposed to certain medical complications such as aggressive breast cancers which are often diagnosed at a later stage. Often, they do not have access to tests and screenings such as mammograms.
In addition to confronting systemic bias, many Black women suffer from high blood pressure, which can lead to preeclampsia and result in premature births. They also have a higher rate of uterine fibroids that can put women at a higher risk for preterm labor miscarriage and pregnancy complications.
A goal for Broward Health is to not only recognize health care disparities, but also to provide a solution through a comprehensive support system for Black women throughout their pregnancies and life. This includes educating the community about warning signs and symptoms and then offering early access to care with readily available physical and mental health screenings and treatments for both mother and child.
Education and care management is only possible if patients have a consistent relationship with their primary care physician, which unfortunately is not always the case with Black women. Instead, they defer to their gynecologist as their primary resource or ask their friends or Google important healthcare questions. It’s vitally important that every Black woman routinely make and keep appointments with her primary care physician on an annual basis. They should engage in meaningful conversation about weight, diet, exercise and any health issues that arise.
I’m proud to have represented Broward Health during this important discussion. Awareness, communication and guidance can preempt health issues. I encourage all women, particularly those of color, to be empowered to take control and ownership of their health.
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