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The Silent Killer: Health Care Disparities in Marginalized Communities


Naileah Anderson Headshot

When one thinks of a silent killer, one thinks of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. But the true killer here is the widespread inequity and underrepresentation many people face in our country’s medical system. Like always, this issue is worse for those communities that have always been considered “inferior” in society, such as people of color, women, disabled people, and those part of the LGBTQ+ communities. As a woman of color, I have dealt with not feeling seen or believed by healthcare professionals. 

Here is a personal story I would like to share. On October 2017, at about 2:36am, I woke up in the most agonizing pain imaginable. A pain that felt as if my insides were being stabbed, and it took my breath away. I thought to myself, “maybe this is just stress,” since I was a week away from taking my SATs, I did not complain. As the days went by and even after my SATs were over, I realized that this pain was still in my body. I felt like a stranger to my own body; what was going on with me? 

As time went on–things became far worse. I decided to take the initiative and do my research (yes, I WebMD’d it). After months of research, I came across a condition called endometriosis, a condition in which endometrial-like tissue grows around bodily organs. I finally went to a doctor, thinking that I might find an answer and this pain would be taken away. I was wrong. Instead, I was told that I was too overweight and should consider losing weight, which I did. Nothing changed, and things only became worse. In seven months, I went through about ten doctors who all said my pain was “all in my head” or that I couldn’t have endometriosis as I was too young and that this condition only affected white women. Until finally, I asked for the last resort: an exploratory surgery that is the only way to diagnose and excise endometriosis, and in March 2020, I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis. 

You are probably wondering, “why did she just tell her story?” or “does she want us to feel bad for her?” No, not at all. I tell you this story because I am showing you how women of color often have their pain invalidated. The fact that I was told that I could not have endometriosis because I was a non-white woman showed how medical facilities and professionals are ignorant when handling the health care of people of color and other marginalized groups in society. We need to allow marginalized people to take up space. Inclusivity must be made. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism are not always directly in our faces but are snuck into our institutions by invalidating who we are, what we feel, and our struggles. Our white, cis-gendered, able-bodied centered institutions are killing us slowly, without us even noticing it.


Naileah Anderson is a member of Young Invincibles’ New York Young Advocates Program.