5 Tips on how to Advocate for your Health and Eliminate Healthcare Bias at the Doctor’s Office
People of color are disproportionately subject to healthcare disparities in the US.
The key to getting the treatment you deserve, lies in your ability to be an advocate for your own health. The sad reality is: people of color are disproportionately subject to healthcare disparities in the US.
When marginalized groups of people don’t speak up, they’re less likely to receive the healthcare they deserve.
According to statistics from The Century Foundation, the average American household spends 11% of their income on healthcare premiums and out-of-pocket costs associated with medical expenses. For African Americans, the percentage is closer to 20%. This is a huge indicator of underlying healthcare bias in the system, and stems from factors including:
- Systemic racism
- Income inequalities
- Unequal access to medical treatment
Data like this reveals how important it is for each one of us to be an advocate for our own health. The healthcare industry is a big business in the United States, and if you don’t take ownership, you will get lost among the sea of a provider’s patients.
If you’re part of a marginalized group of people (e.g. people of color, LGBTQ, overweight) the odds of receiving equitable and just treatment are even more slim. If you come from a marginalized group, you’re less likely to know how to advocate for mental health or physical health. The situation can be uncomfortable and tedious, but it is so important you don’t let these factors deter you.
By being an advocate for your health, you’re helping improve the overall healthcare disparities in the US.
Here are our 5 key tips on how to advocate for your health at the doctor’s office:
1. Advocate for Your Health by Prioritizing Yourself
This is something you need to implement, even before you step foot into your doctor’s office. Taking care of yourself is a crucial part of living a long and healthy life.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 80% of Black women are overweight or obese. This statistic stems heavily from the circumstances Black women have to face. Many black women and people of color are taught to put the health of others before their own. Our system tells black women and marginalized groups to take care of family members and others, before taking care of their own needs.
The saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” comes to mind when discussing this factor. You need to prioritize yourself and become an advocate for your own mental health and physical health. This is the first step you can take towards living a long and healthy life.
2. Advocate for Your Health by Researching Your Doctor and Being Prepared
Before you go to see a new doctor, make sure you look them up. Nowadays, anyone has the ability to write a review online. This gives you a better idea of what you’re getting into. It has the power to save you time and heartache because you’re less likely to talk to a healthcare provider who isn’t right for you.
You should also research your symptoms before going to the doctor. This can prevent a doctor from jumping to conclusions, and help you better explain what is going on with your body. Provider’s bias is a very real thing, and coming prepared to your appointment can help combat it. If you have a vague idea of the kinds of treatment you may need, it helps steer the appointment in the right direction. This way, you worry less about your doctor letting healthcare bias get in the way of providing you with adequate treatment.
At the end of the day, no one knows your body better than you do.
3. Advocate for Your Health by Asking Questions and Taking Notes when Needed
Don’t ever feel embarrassed about having to ask the doctor to repeat or explain something to you. At the end of the day, it’s your body and you deserve to understand everything that is going on. Taking notes prior to your appointment and jotting down specific questions can help prepare you for the appointment.
If your doctor refers you to a specialist, you’re going to want notes to help drive that discussion. This will ensure you’re communicating all necessary information. It also helps you better advocate for your health and treatment options.
4. Advocate for Your Health by Not Being Afraid to go Doctor Shopping
With access to websites like Zoc Doc, the power to find doctors covered by our insurance is at our fingertips. There was a time where we didn’t have access to these kinds of tools, and that made advocating for your own health difficult. But this is no longer the case.
You only have one body to take care of. And that is your own body. Your doctor has many. Making sure you’re picking a provider who clicks with you, and provides you with adequate and just care is key to taking ownership of your own health.
5. Advocate for Your Health by Filling out Surveys to Improve Overall Healthcare Disparities in the US
You probably know the US healthcare system is not just or equitable. There are healthcare disparities in the US medical system that spread far and wide. As a patient, it’s your duty to provide feedback on where hospitals and doctors can improve. With healthcare bias, many providers don’t even realize what they’re doing is wrong.
As someone impacted by healthcare bias, it’s your responsibility to provide feedback. You should be highlighting where changes are needed. When you do this, not only are you an advocate for your health, but you’re also advocating for other people’s health. You have the power to be the change, so make sure you use that power to make the healthcare system better.
Remember, even with these tips—healthcare bias is not something we can fix overnight. This is a deeply rooted issue that spreads far and wide throughout the US healthcare system. But, by taking ownership of your body, and being learning how to advocate for mental health and physical health, you’re paving the way forward.