We’ve been talking recently about Medical Anthropology’s role and impact on improving global healthcare systems. Today we will share three additional observed examples, looking through the lens of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). These studies emphasize the importance of integrating DE&I initiatives into the core of healthcare institutions to enhance health outcomes.
It is widely known that DE&I initiatives aim to improve healthcare efficiency, address health inequalities, and achieve health equity for all, regardless of social factors. With up to 80% of health outcomes attributed to social determinants, it is crucial to examine how healthcare systems perpetuate disparities.
Diversity: Culture as Accessibility
Diversity in healthcare involves recognizing cultural differences in symptom expression. Some of our studies involving depression and anxiety show misdiagnosis due to language barriers and short consultations, but a greater challenge is ensuring HCPs understand diverse cultural meanings of illness.
For example, some Asian cultures express depression as physical pain, very often as a stomachache. A doctor may miss diagnosing depression if they only interpret symptoms within their own cultural context and don’t understand somatization.
It's crucial to apply an introspective lens to both patients and HCPs, as culture shapes everyone.
Equity: Lack of Inclusion as Structural Violence
Limited healthcare access due to socioeconomic status, gender, or orientation delays diagnosis, treatment, and worsens disease impact.
A study showed that a woman's autoimmune condition was exacerbated by her life circumstances (physically demanding job, role as a single mother); another found that cancer patients in Spain resorted to extreme measures to receive timely care (changing their address to switch for a well-known public hospital).
Discrimination also affects healthcare access, especially for LGBTQ+ individuals, leading to lower screening rates and inadequate sexual education.
DE&I efforts can help alleviate structural barriers, reducing structural violence and improving health outcomes for disadvantaged populations.
Inclusion: What Can We Do?
DE&I efforts should prioritize social justice and revolutionize healthcare for improved outcomes for all.
A Piece of Pie advocates for incorporating patients' narratives as qualitative evidence, enabling HCPs to provide holistic guidance by:
A) uncovering cultural expressions of symptoms,
B) understanding social variables' impact on quality of life,
C) referring disadvantaged patients to social services, and
D) diversifying the healthcare workforce.
Join us as partners for the cause of transforming healthcare into a human-centric reality.