Black Women’s Guide to Improving Health Outcomes – Tanesha Townsend

Have you ever been to the point where you were willing to risk your livelihood to assault and batter your physician? Is it just me!?! 

It’s frustrating to constantly have to fight for people to see the validity of my life and its experiences. To be a strong Black woman is considered a cultural standard or a badge of honor. Unfortunately, this standard is accompanied by a disproportionate burden of family responsibilities, finances, work, and the pressure of the need to succeed. When these stressors are not managed, it can lead to far worst complications. 

Along with that, Black women are likely to be ignored or dismissed by physicians in comparison to White women counterparts. 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.” Researchers suggest that health disparities are influenced by socioeconomic status, health behaviors related to culture, access to health care, environmental factors, and direct and indirect manifestations of discrimination.

Five Tips to Regaining Your Power in the Doctor’s Office

1) Speak up, stand firm, and be honest about your pain.

– Be honest about your pain, seriously. Now is not the time to flex how high your pain tolerance is. If you have excessive pain do not dismiss it. Also, don’t hesitate to use descriptive words to express your pain such as excruciating, severe, and/or chronic pain. It is best to be as detailed as possible to provide the most accurate information to your physician to make a diagnosis. 

2) Ask questions.

– As soon as you schedule your doctor’s appointment write down questions to ask your doctor. Most doctor visits are at least 10 to 15 minutes so make it count. Take up every minute that you are paying for. Be sure to ask a variation of questions such as do I need to take any additional test, how do these medications work together, how often should I take a particular medication.

– Examples: 1) Do I need this test, treatment, or procedure? 2) What are the downsides? 3) Are there simpler, safer options? 4) What happens if I do nothing?

3) Ask for holistic options.

– Let your physician know if you do not feel comfortable with any medications prescribed. Be honest about how you feel about the side effects and the length of time that you may have to take any particular medication. I know for some diseases or disorders they are not many holistic options, but some things can assist you in your healing without any side effects. For example, being vitamin deficient can cause complications similar to many diseases. Once your ailments are located you know what vitamins you need to level your system.

– I recommend you take a blood test at the doctor’s office preferably along with your annual physical to show you what you are deficient in. In most cases Black women are low and vitamin D. 

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures (broken bones).

4) If you feel dismissed, get a second opinion. 

– If at any time you are explaining to your physician how you feel or express your experience, you notice they are not attentive to your needs. Do not be afraid to let them know that you feel that they are not listening to you. If you become nervous ask for their nurse to come in to act as a witness/communicator for you and the physician. If there are outrageous assumptions such as a heavy focus on STDs, or cultural stereotypes, be sure to get all exam requests and lack of subordination in writing. Unfortunately, there are times when we may ask for additional tests to be made and are denied due to the lack of belief or understanding of your pain. 

– You do not have to stay with the doctors that disrespect you just because you feel that there is no one else or others may be out of your network. There are tons of physicians who work tirelessly for our community. Continue to search if you need to find someone who works best for you. Trust me, once you find a physician that genuinely cares about your needs true healing can begin.

5) Write a review.

– Karen’s will not be the only one writing reviews from this year forward. Black women’s lives depend on our voices and our actions of change. According to the Office of Minority Health, part of the Department for Health and Human Services, compared to our white counterparts, Black women are at a higher risk for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, 

– Preventative measures and early detection are the key. It is imperative to have healthcare professionals who care for everyone. Black women tend to be quiet as it pertains to vocalizing their opinion within the health industry in fear that they will not receive the help they desire when I can assure your silence is not the answer.

– Unbelievably, the individuals who own the physicians’ offices maybe unaware of how their patrons are being treated. It is imperative to use your voice to regulate the bad individuals in the workplace.

By following these five steps I have been able to locate physicians and other health care professionals who care about my well-being and safety. Going to the doctor is no longer a chore because I know the individuals, I will come in contact with has my best interest at heart.

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