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New medical illustrations challenge lack of representation in women’s healthcare


Women’s social network Peanut has released a digital gallery of illustrations which aims to challenge a lack of representation of women in healthcare.

The gallery, titled “The Reframing Revolution” is free to use and has been developed in collaboration with a gynaecologist and an illustration studio that specialises in science and medicine.

The campaign hopes to highlight that there is no “normal” when it comes to how women’s bodies should look, and that traditional depictions of women’s anatomy as white, slim, hairless and able-bodied are not representative of most women.

Dr Somi Javaid, a gynaecologist, surgeon and founder of HerMD who worked with Peanut on the gallery, said the illustrations could “change the course” of how patients are treated.

“As practitioners, it is our job to treat every patient to the best of our ability. When there are clear biases in the tools we use to diagnose, we’re not bringing our best to every patient,” Javaid said.

“These new illustrations will showcase the diverse bodies and skin tones healthcare providers will see in their daily rounds and change the course of how we treat patients who have been underrepresented and undertreated for so long.”

One 2018 study, which analysed 4,146 images from textbooks used by top medical schools in the US, found that just 17 per cent of images were of black and brown people, while 75 per cent were of those with light skin tones.

Additionally, a 2016 survey of 443 GPs in Australia, found that 97 per cent of gynaecologist have been asked about genital normality by women, but only 75 per cent were confident in evaluating their patients.

In November 2021, a report by MBRRACE-UK found that maternal mortality rates are four times higher in Black women, two times higher for mixed ethnicity women and almost twice as high for Asian women.

Women reported feeling unsafe, having their concerns being ignored or dismissed, facing microaggressions that caused distress, and being denied pain relief due to racial stereotypes.

Michelle Kennedy, founder and CEO of Peanut, said the network’s illustrations will educate both the medical field and society at large.

“Women have been misdiagnosed and mistreated because their healthcare provider didn’t recognise their physical symptoms on non-white skin,” Kennedy said.

“Women and mothers in all their forms, sizes and identities need to be represented.

“These illustrations serve to create an open dialogue. better represent women’s experiences and improve the knowledge gap surrounding women’s health.”

The full gallery of images can be viewed here.

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