For decades, the gap in medical and health resources among different ethnic groups has been evident. This disparity has incredible adverse effects on the well-being of the affected populations. These disparities exist in every aspect of medical care, but the effects of racial disparities in gynecology have resulted in an alarming trend across the United States. In a world where women are already at a disadvantage, the added complications of systemic racism have resulted in a growing gap in women’s health for African Americans.
Numerous factors contribute to the generally troubling impact of race on medical care; some issues are easier to rectify than others. From inherent bias and a lack of resources, to poor education and lower socioeconomic status, the causes are broad and difficult to combat. These gaps in all areas of life contribute greatly to the disparity in healthcare, with the effects often inextricably linked one to another.
For women of color, these difficulties come with even more risk when it comes to obstetric and gynecological care. Women face different issues at different stages in their lives and proper gynecological care throughout the life span is vital to improving their health and well-being, but the racial disparity faced by African American women causes even greater risks. This complicated issue is something medical professionals and researchers are working diligently to analyze so that common racial disparities in gynecology can be better understood and fixed.
Access to medical services and resources is disproportionately more difficult in African American communities, and the quality of the care received is often much lower than in caucasian demographics. A basic lack of good quality healthcare results in a number of serious health issues generally, and this lack is even more evident in gynecology.
The complexity of women’s health has always been cause for increased specialization of the medical services provided. When this care is not available to women, the resulting issues can be devastating. The lack of access for women of color results in lower rates of early detection for many health conditions and has broader consequences when it comes to access to contraceptives, obstetric care, and prenatal care. Higher rates of pregnancy, as well as untreated diseases or complications, result in even more strain for the medical wellbeing of these women.
One of the most evident racial disparities in women’s healthcare is basic access, something that is evident in all areas of health care but comes with increased adverse effects when concentrating on women’s health.
African American women are less likely to receive prenatal care in the earliest stages of their pregnancy. This lack of access to care can result in undiagnosed complications. These complications can have deadly effects on not only the mother but also the child, with African American communities seeing nearly 50% more premature births than other ethnic groups. Additionally, the death of the mother or child during or shortly after pregnancy is markedly higher within this demographic, showing the alarming effect such racial disparities can have.
Lack of access compounds the lack of education available to young women, which can have adverse effects on their overall long term health and wellbeing. Inadequate education regarding sexual health and the lack of access to contraceptives creates a system in which higher rates of young maternal age at conception is seen more frequently in African Americans. Teen pregnancy can cause many different complications ranging from preterm birth, low birth weight, poor mental health and serious medical issues such as vaginal prolapse requiring surgical intervention.
Another common issue seen in gynecology is inherent bias that can result in women not being taken seriously when it comes to their complaints and symptoms. Studies have shown that this bias is evident for all women but the evidence is even more striking in women of color, specifically African American women seeking help for their conditions. Medical professionals not taking their patients’ complaints seriously can often have devastating or life-threatening consequences and systemic racism makes this even more difficult for this ethnic group.
Lack of access to proper gynecological care is often compounded by the socioeconomic effects of race on the gap in equality. Poor access to nutritious food, mental health resources, community support, and other health and wellness options is made more difficult by the stress of poverty and scarcity of resources. The resulting predicament can have incredibly detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of community members and women often bear the greatest burden of this stress.
Further illustrating common racial disparities in gynecology, the lower socioeconomic status of African Americans results in a lack of health insurance that makes adequate care impossible to afford. Without insurance, women often do not seek treatment for easily cured conditions, resulting in complications that can become life threatening. The lack of insurance also reduces a woman’s access to pre- and post-natal care, an issue that often results in life-long complications for mother and child when issues are missed.
Numerous factors contribute to the racially disparate gap in obstetric and gynecological care faced by minorities in the United States, resulting in a complicated issue that researchers are working hard to understand. From access to education, inequality in health care is systemic in African American communities across the nation. The resulting effects only further strain an already unequal system of support and care, resulting in a complex situation that will continue to plague our country.
Understanding and rectifying these issues is key to working toward progress in reducing the gap in quality care for all Americans regardless of race. As researchers and medical professionals continue to study the issues faced by minorities within the healthcare field, the complex nature of these issues comes to light.
The more we learn about these intricate and troubling issues, the better able we will be to rectify them and reduce the effects of racial disparity in all aspects of life. This is especially true for the racial disparities in gynecology, an issue that often has life-threatening consequences for African American women and children.