These illustrations are challenging the lack of representation in women’s healthcare
A 2018 study by Soc Sci Med came to a sorry conclusion: Medical textbooks portray people of colour in only 17 percent of their images. The majority of images within these educational books feature light skin tones.
The number points to a dearth of representation in medical education, which has rippling implications across both healthcare and how women perceive their bodies. Now, a digital gallery of medical stock images is attempting to reframe how women’s healthcare actually looks, with inclusivity and diversity sitting at the crux of the illustrations.
“It’s just as important, if not more so, for women to see themselves in healthcare as they do in media and business. Women have been misdiagnosed and mistreated because their healthcare provider didn’t recognise their physical symptoms on non-white skin,” says Michelle Kennedy, Founder and CEO of Peanut.
“These illustrations serve to create an open dialogue, to better represent women’s experiences and improve the knowledge gap surrounding women’s health.”
The online community collaborated with Dr. Somi Javaid, an OB/GYN doctor, surgeon, and Founder of HerMD, along with Biotic Artlab, a visual communications studio focused on creative solutions in the science sphere.
“As practitioners, it is our job to treat every patient to the best of our ability. When there are clear biases in the tools we use to diagnose, we’re not bringing our best to every patient,” says Dr. Javaid.
“These new illustrations will showcase the diverse bodies and skin tones healthcare providers will see in their daily rounds and change the course of how we treat patients who have been underrepresented and undertreated for so long.”
The subject of medical bias when it comes to race and gender has seeped into discourse in recent years, with attention being drawn to the powerful and detrimental effect such bias can have. Tennis star Serena Williams told her story of severe medical complications after the birth of her daughter, sparking conversations about the unequal medical treatment Black women and women of colour receive. In the UK, for example, a distressing report revealed that Black women are four times more likely to die from childbirth, pointing to systemic and structural biases.
On a larger scale, the 2019 National Healthcare and Disparities Report discovered that white patients are more likely to obtain better quality healthcare than Black, Native American, Hispanic, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander patients.
The presence of such bias can lead to receiving poor treatment or inaccurate and delayed diagnoses.
Peanut and their collaborators hope to mitigate bias in medical literature with their work. The campaign resulted in a series of raw and wonderfully accurate images display the realities of being a woman and a mother, from IVF bruising to breast changes after pregnancy to hair loss to menopause.
The digital gallery is royalty-free, and therefore available to download and can be used for reference and use by women, media and the medical community.