Health

Women’s health study says racism damages women’s health

A collaborative study by the Community Center of excellence in Women’s health, located at North Minneapolis’ Pilot City Health Center, and the College of St. Catherine found that racial overtures and abuse… A collaborative study by the Community Center of excellence in Women’s health, located at North Minneapolis’ Pilot City Health Center, and the College of St. Catherine found that racial overtures and abuse contributed to health disparities among women of color and immigrants in the Minneapolis area.

Researchers examined the interplay of racism, health and well being for women of color in the local area and found that racism, along with poverty, is a major factor underlying higher incidences of hypertension, premature births, mental illness, stress related illness and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Maggie Pharris, assistant professor, College of St. Catherine, explained that researchers combined the insight of the North Minneapolis community on their own health problems and the research capability of the college faculty and students in arriving at conclusions.

Linda Rushing, one of the researchers, told Insight News that 68 women participated in the one-year study and all “reported having experienced significant racial discrimination in their daily lives and while seeking medical attention.” The women and girls reported being disrespected while insufficient attention was paid to their health concerns when they visited a medical professional.

She explained, too, that most of the women stated that health professionals displayed a lack of sensitivity and displayed discriminatory attitudes that contributed to their stress and depression. Further, communication with health workers, they said, is often strained by language difficulties between patient and the health service provider.

Latino immigrants who participated in the study reported feeling, Rushing said, “fearful of speaking because they felt they might not receive care or might be reported to the immigration authorities.”

The study also noted that a large number of Hmong, Laotian, Latinos, Africans and Native American women depended on their traditional methods of healing as a first attempt in restoring themselves to good health. But their cultural medicines are ignored by health professionals – as patients, they feel doctors should be aware of their home remedies.

These home remedies they said, include seeing a Shaman (spiritual healer), the taking herbal and other folk remedies. “They want these Western trained health workers to know about their practices, respect them and to take time to understand how their home” remedies may help.

The researchers now want health workers to develop an understanding of the cultural influences that guide patient behavior and that health service providers adopt a holistic approach.

Meanwhile, African American women affirmed that they did not trust the health care system and gave oral accounts of personal abuses in addition to admitting to a lingering fear about medical experiments on Black persons.

Especially noted was the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and another conducted on newborn children of the Lakota Sioux Indians by medical professionals.

Seventy-nine percent of the women who participated in the study reported being in good health, but half of the group were actually suffering from some significant mental or physical condition while 10.5 percent of the women who stated that they were not healthy, did not list any physical or mental problem.

The College of St. Catherine health experiences study of women and girls in the North Minneapolis area follows one conducted by the Washington-based Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The study “Unequal treatment: Confronting racial ethnic disparities in Healthcare” concluded “racial and ethnic minorities, with a few exceptions, experience higher rates of morbidity and mortality than none-whites.”

African Americans for example, experience the highest rate of mortality for heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disea

June 23, 2003
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