Giving Compass' Take:

• A study from the University of Washington interviewed 22 self-identified women of color, revealing that they believed interactions with doctors and nurses were misleading and biased. 

• How do these studies help researchers reflect on the power dynamics between medical professionals and their patients? What can the medical community takeaway from this study, and how can donors help to rectify this? 

• Read about how the racial inequities in delivery rooms and beyond.

The study finds women of color believe information is being “packaged” in such a way as to disempower them by limiting maternity health care choices for themselves and their children.

“Given the significant birth-related disparities faced by women of color, particularly black women, this study illuminates a previously undescribed aspect of the patient-provider interaction,” says lead author Molly Altman, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Washington.

“How providers shared or didn’t share appropriate information about options, risks, and possible outcomes was perceived as biased and dependent on whether providers saw them as individuals capable of making good decisions,” says Altman.

The study participants said that while they wanted complete, truthful, and comprehensive information about available care and options, they felt information was “packaged” in a way that reflected what the provider thought the patient should do, based on bias, and was “disrespectful.”

Researchers interviewed 22 self-identified women of color from the San Francisco Bay Area who had given birth within the previous year. The interviews were open-ended discussions of the participants’ experiences in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care and took place between September 2015 and December 2017.

The researchers point out in their paper that they used a method of analysis that “acknowledges the subjective and involved nature of the researcher in relation to the participant” to account for the interpersonal nature of the research.

“The results of our study were not surprising in the sense that communities of color have long known that providers often use their power to influence health-related communication and decision-making,” Altman says. However, she adds, “given existing evidence of the impacts of implicit bias and racism on birth outcomes, this study provides a potential mechanism for how this association occurs.”

Read the full article about health bias toward pregnant women of color from the University of Washington at Futurity.