The B.L.A.C. Project is honored to release with our partners today a video series that explores the roots of medical distrust in Black and brown communities through the lens of personal stories. The series highlights the voices of three people– two patients who identify as persons of color and one health provider who identifies as white– as the entry point into a broader discussion about the profound impact of this distrust, and what health care providers can do to address it.
These videos are part of an ongoing project, “More Than a Vaccine: Storytelling to Build Medical Trust,” funded by Boston University and led collaboratively by Everyday Boston, Boston Medical Center’s Department of Family Medicine, The B.L.A.C. Project, Transformational Prison Project, We Got Us, EmVision Productions, and NIH’s Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL).
The series touches on a range of themes, from not feeling seen, heard or understood to being dismissed as unable to measure one’s own pain. It features Rochelle Levy-Christopher who shares the frustrations of her fertility journey; Kent Whitlock who describes his experiences of being passed over and mistreated by medical care; and Katherine Gergen Barnett, who speaks to her own experiences and reflections as a white physician.
The video series, produced by EmVision, concludes with a call to action, where community members are asked to upload their own stories and suggestions for health care professionals on Everyday Boston’s website. Everyday Boston will not only host this dialogue on their platform but will also be conducting more in-depth interviews with community members throughout the Spring of 2022. Together - the EmVision videos, Everyday Boston interviews, and the community’s call to action - will serve as a platform for future community dialogues and teaching sessions within medical institutions.
The “More Than a Vaccine” project began in early 2021 when health providers were trying to better understand and address vaccine hesitancy in communities of color. Numerous studies have indicated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the burden of illness, economic devastation, and death was falling disproportionately on Black and Latinx people. And yet Black and Latinx people were more likely than whites to want to “wait and see” before getting the vaccine. In our community conversations, vaccine hesitancy in Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities was tightly connected to high levels of historical and present-day distrust in the medical system. Indeed, recent systematic reviews show that compared to non-Hispanic white patients, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic participants were 73% and 49% more likely to report mistrust in health professionals, respectively. (https://www.annfammed.org/content/19/1/4). Distrust in medical professionals and medical systems results in, among other things, worse outcomes for patients - further perpetuating health inequities in our country. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0969733016652449)
To better understand medical distrust and to work to improve health outcomes for people of color, the “More Than a Vaccine” project aimed to use story sharing as a tool to amplify the experiences and beliefs of BIPOC communities and strengthen the understanding between health providers and patients of color.
The ongoing project has three distinct phases: a series of restorative justice circles facilitated by the Transformational Prison Project, a story collecting project led by EmVision and Everyday Boston that amplifies the experiences and collective wisdom of patients; and the creation of educational materials for medical students and health providers, to be developed by We Got Us in the months to come. The B.L.A.C. Project took on the critical role of Community Advocate, supporting every phase of the process.