Skin of Color - Inclusivity
During the pandemic, our lives were fiercely halted. Many were left without jobs while also facing other harsh realities.
One unexpected, but major, reality trickled down into our skin community. For so long, the conversation surrounding skin ailments didn't include every patient. Most education and advertisements were solely focused on white skin. With a copious amount of downtime from the pandemic, fueled by the growing rate of police brutality seen towards people of color, reflection began within our own niche.
Why didn't we have more inclusion happening in our doctor's offices? Why wasn't this addressed sooner?
Ashley Ann Lora, a well-known advocate and NEA ambassador, embraced the call that tugged at her heart. She sat with her thoughts surrounding the protests and her own struggles growing up with eczema.
"I've lived with eczema since 1992, but have only learned about the 31+ million other Americans living with atopic dermatitis since 2014," she explains. "I literally thought I was the only one in the world living with eczema as it's something I never saw in my peers nor on TV. My experience of not being introduced to other resources throughout 23 years of my life is what made me think deeper about the impact my skin of color played on managing my eczema."
Solving for inclusivity
From this grew a further passion to act. As a personal friend of mine, Ashley is not one to just sit back.
"I began to think about how, one, I was part of the problem, two, how I can be part of the solution, and three, how my life has been affected due to the color of my skin."
Knowing she wanted to be a part of the moving conversation around skin of color, she first dug up the facts.
Eczema in skin of color statistics
First off, roughly 11% of children in the United States experience eczema. Within that 11%, Black children are at the highest percentile (17.1%), as opposed to white children (11.2%). Hispanic children sit in the middle at 13.7%.1 For a community that represents the most children with eczema, where are the awareness and education?
Black children, as well, are less likely to seek treatment for their eczema. However, it is also indicated that Black children, when seeking help, tend to have more visits and more prescriptions, implying harsher skin conditions.1
Worst of all, a study showed that minority children are more likely to be from lower-income homes and less likely to have insurance.
So, Ashley put out a call to action. There was hope that other like-minded comrades would assist in her quest to better educate others and encourage skincare companies to step up in inclusivity. She didn't know what she was going to do but knew something had to be done.
"I have this saying that I live by - 'If it's to be, it's up to me,'" she shares. "If I want to see the change I desire, I get to BE the change first. I cannot wait on others to create that change."
Luckily, she waited for me and our friend, Chi, to join in the fighting ranks.
"...who else is best in expressing these emotions and facts than those in the actual eczema community who have faced and continue to face disparities in receiving the proper treatment and acknowledgment."
Together, we embarked on a journey to get our voices heard.
What is needed?
Throughout our time together working on our campaign, our one main goal was for change - including our brothers and sisters of color within the skin community.
We want to see them represented in research.
We want to see them in textbooks and advertisements.
We want to see them as our doctors and our physicians.
Research is where it all begins. "This is vital in creating a trickling effect of awareness on the different ways an individual can best manage their eczema, especially depending on their skin type and color." When skin of color is added into research, fair research may I add, then there is a fighting chance to see real change.
"Then, the results of the research must stream into medical schools. As a patient, the first place we go to in order to get clarity with an abnormal reaction to the body is a doctor."
The education must be there. Time and time again, it is the lack of education that ferments stagnancy. Doctors must always be up to date. They must be educated on all skin types and all treatments. If skin of color isn't represented in textbooks, it won't be understood in the doctor's office.
Solving for inclusivity in skincare companies
As the largest part of our campaign, we urged skincare companies to fight alongside us. First, we wrote companies that we saw were not participating with any inclusive language or images. Then, we gave them ideas and ways of how to join in the education and awareness. We were excited to see conversations happening.
More must be done over time, but that little spark lit by our small yet passionate actions can be a game-changer. We must be the change we want to see, as Ashley invokes. Our voices and actions matter. What we do and say matters.
Never stop asking questions
Ashley leaves us with some great advice. "Stay curious."
If we don't do the work ourselves, we may never grow in our skin health journeys. We can't always rely on others to have the answers.
"If I didn't get curious and start to reflect and ask deep questions in 2014 about what else can I do to heal, I would have never Googled 'eczema' and learned about all of the other people living with this condition. I probably wouldn't have learned about the NEA and all of the great resources they alone provide."
Just reading these words means you're a curious soul. Never stop digging. Your health is sacred and precious. Guard it. And if you don't see yourself represented somewhere, you have the power to change that reality.
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