Angelina Jolie’s Op-Ed Shines a Light on the Way Medical Professionals Endanger Her Children of Color

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Angelina Jolie wants everyone to know the racial disparities in the medical field, and how it’s affected her children.

On July 5, the Know Your Rights and Claim Them author shared a powerful op-ed for the American Journal of Nursing that discussed multiple subjects like the “new technology that detects bruises on darker skin colors when it comes to survivors of domestic violence,” per Today Show, how her children have been affected by the overwhelming focus doctors have put on researching white skin, and more.

In the op-ed entitled “Addressing Health Inequities in Survivors of Domestic Violence,” she wrote, “As the mother of children of multiple races, I have seen my children of color be misdiagnosed, at times in ways that endangered their health.”

She touched on the new technology previously discussed, and how advancements in detecting bruises on all skin tones will help abuse survivors. “Bruising is one of the most common types of soft tissue injury experienced by abuse survivors,” she penned. “Yet even today, bruise detection and diagnosis are usually done by sight in natural light. This fails to take account of injuries to abuse survivors of color, which may be barely visible or entirely invisible to the naked eye, despite causing significant harm and pain.”

She also talked about a personal instance having to do with her daughter Zahara, and how medical professionals didn’t know how to help her because of her darker skin tone.

“Reflecting personally, when my daughter Zahara, who is from Ethiopia, was hospitalized for a medical procedure, the nurse told me to call her ‘if she turns pink near her incisions,’” she said. “I stood looking blankly at her, not sure she understood what was wrong with what she had said. When she left the room, I had a talk with my daughter, both of us knowing that we would have to look for signs of infection based on our own knowledge, not what the nurse had said, despite her undoubted good intentions.”

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Jolie has six children named Maddox, 21, Pax, 19, Zahara, 18, Shiloh, 17, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 15. Maddox is from Cambodia, Pax was born in Vietnam, and Zahara in Ethiopia. And this isn’t the first time she’s mentioned how medical professionals needed to learn outside of white skin tones to better help patients like her children.

In a previous study from 2018 entitled “Representations of race and skin tone in medical textbook imagery,” Patricia Louie and Rima Wilkes “analyzed 4146 images” from a plethora of textbooks and handbooks to check how ach skin tone was represented. They said “While the textbooks approximate the racial distribution of the U.S. population: 62.5 [percent] White, 20.4 [percent] Black, and 17.0 [percent] Person of Color,” the skin tones represented had a startling disparity.

Nearly 75 percent was that of light skin tones, with 21 percent being tan, and only 4.5 percent representing darker skin tones.

Many have offered possible solutions to fix this disparity, with the most well-known being Trisha Kaundinya and Roopal V. Kundu’s solution being to have “institutional review panels” to ensure proper representation of all skin tones.

The Oscar-winning actress concluded her powerful, illuminating op-ed by saying, “From technology to improving diversity and representation in medical research and training, it is past time to embrace new solutions.”

If you’re in an emergency situation, call 9-1-1. If you or someone you love is dealing with an abusive person, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224) or find your state hotline here.

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