In 2020, some of the darkest struggles facing people of color were brought to center stage. For many, it was shocking. For those who live the day-to-day struggle of being treated differently because of their skin color, these events came as no surprise. It was a calling to raise our collective voices and join the fight.
In the face of discrimination, equitable access to healthcare can be exhausting and discouraging, but there is power in our voices. And when we use our voices and advocate for ourselves and each other, we can save lives.
Unfortunately, the healthcare system is not immune to racial and ethnic inequities. For example, black and white women are diagnosed with breast cancer at the same rate, but black women are 40% more likely to die from the disease than white women. Regardless of your skin color, you deserve to receive the best care and have all of your questions answered.
If you’re not sure how to start, here are a few ways to advocate for your health:
Understand your health insurance
Review your insurance policy to determine which doctors are in and out-of-network, how much copays and deductibles are, and what services are covered. This will help you navigate the healthcare system and reduce the probabilities of ending up with costly and unexpected medical bills. If you don’t have health insurance, there are low-cost ways to get health screenings.
Find a trusted healthcare provider
To find a healthcare provider you can trust, identify what is most important to you. Answering these questions give you a good start for your research and increase the chances of finding someone you can trust:
- Do you have a gender preference?
- Is the race/ethnicity or language of your provider important to you?
- Do your friends, family, or colleagues have a provider they recommend?
- Is the provider’s location accessible to transportation, parking, shuttle service? These seemingly small things can help decrease your stress before going into the appointment.
- Does your provider have an online bio? You’ll find information on their experience, interests, awards, and more.
Trust your intuition and be assertive
You know your body best. If you feel something is wrong, share your concerns with your provider. Ask them what their plan is to assess your symptoms and address your concerns. Ask what tests will be done and how you will receive your results.
Before you visit your provider, prepare a list with your questions and concerns. There are no dumb questions! Take notes during and after your visit, and follow up if you need more information. Also, consider bringing a friend or family member to take notes or to help advocate for you. Ask your provider if they would be okay with you recording the visit so you can review it later.
Get a second opinion
If you do not feel confident and comfortable with your provider’s diagnosis and/or treatment plan, don’t hesitate to find a second opinion. You should feel confident that you have made the best decision for your health.
Maintain your own records
Keeping a record of the dates and notes from each appointment can be useful to look back on, especially if you switch insurances or seek a second opinion.
Find a supportive community
We are stronger together and others’ experiences can help you discover the right path for you. If you may be at high risk for ovarian or breast cancer, the Rivkin Connect program is here to help you connect with other high-risk individuals who have already navigated this path and have taken many different approaches to breast and ovarian cancer prevention.