Scouting Report-Health in Her Hue: Culturally Competent Care for Women of Color
Health in Her Hue (HHH) is a digital health startup company that connects black women and women of color to culturally aligned and racially sensitive healthcare providers. The platform aims to reduce racial health disparities by using technology, media, and the community to equip black women with adequate information to advocate for themselves and improve their health outcomes. In the fall, Health in Her Hue raised $1M in a pre-seed round. Investors in this round include Seae Ventures, The Genius Guild Greenhouse Fund, Unseen Capital, and Female Founders Alliance. Also included in this round are angel investors Pipeline Angels, BLXVC, and Bedua Partners. The company intends to use the funds to build its platform to help Black women and women of color easily access culturally sensitive healthcare providers, health content, and community.
According to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, Black patients were significantly less likely than white patients to receive analgesics for extremity fractures in the emergency room (57% vs. 74%), despite having similar self-reports of pain.
One in five Black Americans prefer a provider of the same race or ethnicity
A 2005 report from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) noted that the poverty in which black people disproportionately live doesn’t account for the fact that Black people are sicker and have shorter life spans than white peers.
Although Black Americans make up approximately 13% of the U.S. population only 5% of American physicians are Black.
HHH co-founders CEO Ashlee Wisdom and Chief Product Officer Eddwina Bright started the company to address the impact of systemic racism on the health outcomes of black women and women of color. While working in a healthcare setting Wisdom experienced microaggressions that impacted her health adversely. She also observed the impact of social factors and disparities on the health outcome of black women and women of color. Her personal experience and research spurred the vision of creating a safe space for black women to access adequate and proper treatment by culturally competent healthcare providers. By Hearing and Understanding these women’s unique Experiences, The company hopes to foster health equity by closing the gap in health literacy and interventions while addressing racial health disparities.
According to the U.S. Census and the Association of American Medical Colleges, there are about 40 million Black Americans and only about 5% of U.S. physicians are Black The ratio of Black patients to doctors is disproportionate and limits patients who would prefer treatment from a doctor of the same race or ethnicity. More than one in five Black Americans prefer a doctor of the same race or ethnicity.
By providing a platform featuring over 1000 culturally sensitive healthcare providers including doctors, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, therapists, and nutritionists, Wisdom hopes to connect black women to providers of color.
Although doctors of color are not exempted from having biases, the goal of HHH is to connect patients with doctors who listen and deliver care that is culturally sensitive. Providers can sign up on the website, list their practice and patients can enter their location to find doctors nearby. HHH plans to add telehealth services to its current offerings, and develop a new platform and membership experience within the following year. This membership will offer women customized care support through tailored content, consultations, and care recommendations. While its app is still in the beta testing phase, HHH’s website offers workshops, events, and easy-to-follow courses to educate black women about their health for free.
According to the CDC, Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the U.S. While the high maternal mortality rate is attributable to several factors, a consistent concern amongst black women is that their concerns are mostly dismissed or overlooked by health providers. For example, in a report, The National Academy of Medicine stated that “racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.” In addition, a December 2020 article in JAMA found that many medical programs lack cultural competency as well as diversity and inclusion training within their curriculum leaving medical professionals ill-prepared when treating patients of other ethnicities. HHH is attempting to address this issue by connecting patients with doctors who can understand and address their cultural and ethnic needs. HHH’s goal is to provide a pioneering platform that connects providers of color for black and other women of color. In helping to create a safe space where black women and women of color can access health literature, attend events discussing health, and connect with medical providers of color, HHH helps address concerns of women of color over disparate treatment. This platform contributes to the reform efforts to foster health equity in the U.S. with services that address biases both within and outside the healthcare delivery system. With its base in New York City, HHH hopes to help women from underserved minority groups and women of color take control of their own health.
The Big Picture:
The observed disparities and inequities at the onset of the pandemic has fueled a much-needed focus on social determinants of health; especially the role of demographic characteristics such as race. As noted in the National Academy of Medicine’s 2002 report “Racism and Health Inequity Among Americans”, the inequities that worsen minorities' health conditions are “the result of a combination of social factors that influence financial access and receipt of appropriate care.” HHH’s platform could further open up the discourse on the healthcare of minorities, especially women of color in America.
HHH’s provision of culturally competent information and treatment could also reduce instances of poor health outcomes and avoidable deaths caused by wrong diagnoses or poor health-seeking behavior caused by fear of discrimination. As described by Keisha Ray, an assistant professor at the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics in Texas, “When we look at patient testimonies, particularly from Black women ... we’re seeing that they are hypersexualized and that if they have some sort of illness or pain, that it's presumed to be likely self-inflicted in a sense that they did something wrong.” Furthermore, improved access to culturally competent information could also equip women of color to be better advocates of their health and help them in making more informed health or healthcare decisions. Health in Her Hue is a welcome development for addressing poor health outcomes attributable to implicit bias and prejudices in healthcare delivery.