How an App Helps Black Women Find Culturally Appropriate Care

key takeaways

  • Health In Her Hue is a digital platform that connects Black women and women of color with culturally competent healthcare providers, health content and communities.
  • Black women and women of color can connect with BIPOC therapists, doctors, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants and more on the Health In Her Hue app.
  • Health In Her Hue will migrate from an app to a web platform sometime this year.

While Ashlee Wisdom, MPH, founder and CEO of Health In Her HUE (HIHH) is a MPH from NYU, she noticed that black women and women of color do not have access to the health information she is reading daily from academics journals.

Combined with her negative past experiences with culturally insensitive healthcare providers, Wisdom was driven to create HIHH to help bridge the health divide.

HIHH is a digital platform launched in 2018. It helps connect Black women and women of color with culturally competent healthcare providers, health content and communities. The platform includes a provider directory where users can search and filter for providers that meet their cultural needs, as well as a library of content centered on the lived experiences of Black women and the issues that primarily affect them.

Wisdom hopes this platform will advance the health of Black women and women of color by increasing access to culturally competent and sensitive providers, therapists, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, and more.

VigorTip spoke with Wisdom and Magdala Chery, MD, MPH, New Jersey board-certified internist and HIHH provider, to learn how the app can help make care more accessible.

VigorTip: What inspired you to start Health In Her HUE?

Wisdom: When I was doing my MPH at NYU, I started building health in her shades and had the privilege of having access to academic journals. I’ve been reading papers from different classes and getting a complete picture of the poor health that exists in black women. I remember being a black woman and being able to raise awareness of health disparities was such a privilege. If I wasn’t sitting in this classroom, I’m not sure I’d actually be aware of these issues. So I wanted to take the information out of the ivory tower and make it more accessible and actionable for everyday black women.

The other half of this story is that I work at an academic medical center in New York City. As a black woman, I work in a department that is a very toxic work environment for me. It ended up taking a toll on my health. I had an outbreak of chronic hives and thought I was allergic to something, so I went to see an allergist who happened to be a white woman. She is a good doctor but she tested me and couldn’t figure out what was causing the hives. It never occurred to me to share with her, “Hey, I’m working in this very racist environment, and it’s toxic.” Plus, I’m in grad school full-time.

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It never occurred to me to share this stuff with her because I didn’t feel like she could relate or even understand. The hives stopped when I left my toxic job. I realized the hives were triggered by the stress I was going through. I remember looking back on that experience and thinking about how my communications and interactions with black gynecologists were different from those with white allergists. If I shared more with her about what happened, she would be able to find the root cause of the hives instead of just telling me to take two Allegra tablets a day to control them.

I figured if no one else was building solutions to support Black women and women of color navigating this healthcare system that wasn’t really designed for us, then I wanted to build something to help us.

VigorTip: How does HIHH fit into the health field?

Wisdom: I’ve done a lot of research and haven’t really seen anything on the market specifically designed to meet the unique healthcare needs of women of color, especially black women.

I went to Howard University for my undergraduate degree. In this alumni email group, at least once a week, I get an email exchange asking for a referral to a black therapist or black gynecologist. Seeing this as my first inclination is the need for catalogs or tools to help us find culturally consistent or culturally competent providers. This did not exist at the time.

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Chery: We’re using technology, so we want to be able to reach black women around the world. Some women are where they can’t find color providers. So how do we connect them to systems that make them feel safe? How we can help them figure out where to find a doctor who may not be a provider of color but is culturally sensitive and gets good reviews on how they care for women who look like them.

VigorTip: How does HIHH work and how will it evolve?

Wisdom: We currently have an app where people can connect, search and find these providers. We’ll be rolling out a new web experience.

One of the things we’re excited about in the future is the ability to bring telehealth consultations or telehealth consultations to women who use our platform. We really want to bridge the access gap.

While we know technology is not a panacea, it does have a big role in closing some of the access gaps for patients who are actively seeking a culturally sensitive or culturally consistent provider. Say you’re a black woman in a rural area, or an area where you don’t have access to black doctors in your insurance network. You can come to the HIHH platform and get a second opinion from a culturally sensitive or culturally consistent physician.

Chery: We listed more providers, made sure they were trained in health equity and cultural competency, and delved into what it means to care for black women. Where do we have gaps? How can we truly understand their stories, learn from them, and change our behavior in healthcare practice? So I’m very excited about our growth and the ideas we have.

what does this mean to you

To join Health In Her HUE, follow the download instructions at app.healthinherhue.com.

VigorTip: What has been the impact of HIHH so far?

Wisdom: We get a lot of information from patients and providers who tell us they appreciate what we’ve built because they’re able to make really meaningful connections and improve the provider experience.

Since using the HIHH platform, a doctor shared with us that she was able to diagnose a woman with a large number of fibroids. The woman had been complaining to other doctors that no one took the time to get an ultrasound.The patient found [the doctor] At HIHH, the doctor did an ultrasound and was able to support her. These are some of the life-changing connections we were able to make and hopefully continue to do.

VigorTip: What do you want readers to take away from this story?

Wisdom: As a company, we are proving that communities play a huge role in the care and quality of care people receive. I think it’s often underestimated, but one of the things we often hear from our members is how much they value the community component. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, even if your doctor is a doctor of color, they’ve never actually been diagnosed with breast cancer, and they don’t really know the road you’re going to go through.

Therefore, connecting with other women who have the same diagnosis as you or who have been through similar things can help you feel truly supported rather than isolated in your experience.

Chery: I hope those who participate in our platform understand that this is our first bridge to build trust. We cannot assume that trust is automatically given to us because so many of us are black women who work on teams. But we do it with the utmost respect and a desire to truly make a difference.