Intersectional invisibility experiences of low-income African-American women in healthcare encounters

Ethn Health. 2021 Mar 18:1-20. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2021.1899138. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: The disparities that Black/African-American women experience in health care are persistent and staggering. Findings from health outcomes research continue to demonstrate poorer outcomes for African-American women compared to women of other race/ethnicity in several conditions. These racial/ethnic and gender health disparities observed are complex, heavily nuanced and multi-factorial. To understand these, there is a need to apply an ‘intersectionality’ lens. Intersectionality refers to the experience of persons with multiple intersecting statuses. The objective of this exploratory study was to gain insight into the healthcare experiences of low-income African-American women.

METHODS: In-depth one-on-one interviews were conducted with 22 women and 2 focus group discussions with community leaders and advocates. Investigators conducted a thematic analysis of the transcripts.

RESULTS: The thematic analysis revealed four major themes, which tell the story of the intersectional invisibility experienced by low-income AA women in the healthcare system. These included (1) the perception of ‘not feeling heard’; (2) patient as ‘expert of her own body’; (3) disregard of patient preferences; and (4) the need for self-advocacy.

CONCLUSIONS: Black/African-American women, and particularly those with socioeconomic disadvantage, experience intersectional invisibility resulting from provider implicit bias, stereotypical assumptions, and systemic structures that enable discriminatory practices in healthcare delivery. Healthcare provider education that more explicitly addresses these biases and stereotypes should be complemented with system-level interventions that aim to dismantle the structural racism inherent in healthcare policies and practices.

PMID:33734922 | DOI:10.1080/13557858.2021.1899138