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Posted By Lexington Writing Firm on 06/02/2022

Health Writing Takeaways to Improve Wellness for Communities of Color

Health Writing Takeaways to Improve Wellness for Communities of Color

Shaundelle Darris is the founder and CEO of Hersiliency, a Minnesota-based organization working to improve wellness for communities of color across the country. With a background in human resources, she is defining health disparities, inequities and biases that affect the wellness of Black, Indigenous and other people of color. She has led cultural sensitivity training for Target, United Way, the University of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis. 

Darris is part of Lexington Writing Firm’s Network of Experts. As healthcare writers, we sit down with our experts to ensure that all of our health writing is accessible, inclusive and sensitive to patients and readers of diverse backgrounds. In our discussion with Darris, she offers a number of takeaways to support healthcare organizations (especially healthcare communicators and marketers) in better serving patients from historically underserved populations to advance health equity. 

Health equity initiatives to improve wellness for communities of color 

The term “wellness” has taken on new meaning in recent years, but it extends well beyond supplements, diets or fitness classes. In the Black community, self-care practice is a social justice tool for wellness that includes both activism and tending to individual well-being simultaneously. For other communities of color as well, wellness often includes healing from trauma and decades of mistreatment from the medical community. 

“It is important to note — with statistics such as Black women are three times more likely to have maternal mortality than their counterparts — that this type of work is a matter of life and death, not just for me, but for my community as well,” Darris explained. 

She shared that in her experience, people of color feel anxious from the unjust systems in place. Oftentimes, they become retriggered or re-traumatized in spaces or institutions like hospitals that were built to promote wellness, while additionally trying to survive everyday life. How does one heal from the devastation of mass incarceration and the family structure it impacts? Or how can someone feel secure with increasing gun violence on the rise whether it is from the community or systems? How can we break mental health barriers in communities of color?   

There are a number of ways to improve Black health including more safe spaces and resources that address the products of these injustices and contribute to advancing health equity. 

Speakers at wellness conferences Darris attends often don’t represent the community she comes from. “Sitting at these tables, there is a blaring red flag that despite talks of racial disparities within the healthcare system, no one is ready to do tangible work that can make generational differences. It’s exhausting to not only set the table, but manage it as well when it comes to addressing the racial disparities in our healthcare systems. I wish there were more opportunities for me to show up and speak about these issues without me having to set the table just to be heard,” Darris mourned. 

Advancing health equity begins with listening to communities of color 

Lawmakers in Minnesota declared racism a health crisis in 2020. The next year, the American Psychological Association formally apologized to people of color for its role in promoting racism in the United States. 

For Darris, these symbolic moves don’t rewrite decades of injustice. “The apology was too late and came with no real change,” she said. “Money goes to big organizations, who often are not representing or supporting the communities who have been impacted most from avoidable neglectance.”

“Yes, it’s going to take time and major efforts for real change to happen,” Darris explained. Equity in healthcare starts by listening and having people from communities of color at the table because everyone has a right to good health and wellness

Inclusive writing takeaways for healthcare communicators and marketers 

As an experienced facilitator who leads cultural sensitivity training for agencies and organizations, Darris shared her insights about how to effectively communicate with people of color about wellness. Healthcare writers, marketers and communicators can use these inclusive writing strategies to connect with the communities they serve and promote health equity.

Takeaway 1: Recognize and respect differences. 

“Some people have hidden cultural biases that are blocking them from the very oath they took when entering the medical field,” Darris said. 

Healthcare content marketing and writing should always consider culture, race, gender and other characteristics and factors that make people unique. Improve patient education and health literacy — through inclusive website copy, blog posts and medical articles — by providing all the information that would be helpful to people of all backgrounds.

For instance, Darris shared that the Black community is oftentimes communal. So patient teaching needs to reflect that. When talking to Black patients about their mental health needs, a provider should offer patient education materials that align with their cultural beliefs. For instance incorporating holistic elements in their healing practices.  

“If you don’t acknowledge my Blackness or my culture, then you’re missing the biggest part of me, and from that oftentimes the seeds of distrust are being planted,” Darris said. 

Takeaway 2: Lean into community experts. 

Darris emphasized the importance of hospitals, medical centers and other health organizations listening to the diverse communities they serve. Include social justice and health equity efforts that engage the community, and be open. 

“Learn from the experiences that happen in those spaces, so that when you are serving that community, you are pulling from what they know and not what you assume,” she said. “Everything we need is already within ourselves, and we just need help shining the light a little brighter.”

Takeaway 3: Make the effort. 

Invest the time and resources to make sure your medical writing promotes health equity and accessibility. “The healthcare system has been mistaught for decades on how to support Black and brown and other communities of color,” Darris said. “It’s going to take some time to change. Don’t stop just because others don’t understand what you’re doing. Stay committed for the sake of your patients of color because they deserve an ally in these systems of disparities.”

If you want to learn more about inclusive health writing, get our guide, An Invitation to Inclusive Healthcare Content.”

At Lexington Writing Firm, our team is made up of experienced strategists and health writers who understand healthcare, digital marketing and myriad audiences. Learn more about how we can help by booking a free 30-minute call with us.

Connect with us on LinkedIn and Instagram. You can learn more about our equity-focused approach on our website.


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