Why We Need "Black Lives Matter" in Medical Literature

November 03, 2016 By Dr. Geraldine Ekpo - Leave a Comment

Persistent inequities for Black Americans have been captured by the phrase “Black Lives Matter” which began inauspiciously—a hashtag on Twitter following the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The phrase is provocative by design, and its use conveys both urgency and frustration with the status quo. What is notably absent, with the exception of three isolated commentaries, is the use of the phrase in medical literature.  Given similar inequities in  medicine with glaring evidence, there is a need for outrage and frustration with the status quo in the medical field.

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Black women are less likely to be using the most effective contraceptive methods. For those trying to conceive, Black women are more likely to be infertile after adjustment for socioeconomic position, and risk factors for infertility. Even when Black women attain equal access to IVF, Black women have lower live birth rates and higher miscarriage rates. They are also more likely to die a pregnancy-related death than White and Hispanic women, and  less likely to receive critical chemotherapy for ovarian and uterine cancers. 

It is not enough to cite these statistics repeatedly with no demonstrable action. It is not enough to use the reflexive defense that racial disparities are too complex for us to do anything about. Along with my colleagues who are ob-gyn sub-specialists, we use data to demonstrate the significant disparities with a call to action for our colleagues. We can prioritize racial equity in women’s health, but we must actively choose to do so. The overwhelming statistics we present are attributable to a broken racist system, not a broken group of women…

Geraldine Ekpo, MD, FACOG

To read the full article authored by Dr. Ekpo and her colleagues in the American Journal for Public Health (AJPH), download "Black Lives Matter: Claiming a Space for Evidence Based Outrage in Obstetrics and Gyneocology"

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Filed Under: Social justice, infertility, access to care

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