Addressing the lack of diversity in medical diagrams
By Tiffany Sequeira @gynaegirl
My name is Tiffany and I am a pelvic health physiotherapist, working both within the NHS and privately. Where a ‘normal’ physio deals with aches, pains, dodgy muscles etc I deal with that too…but on peoples ‘down below’.
Most commonly in clinic, I treat both men and women who are presenting sexual dysfunctions, post pregnancy tears, incontinence and prolapse symptoms. I love my job, I love the people I see and have the pleasure of helping and I love that I get to manage and help squash some of taboos which (unfortunately) still exist in 2020!
We, as humans, are receptive beings, which means it is truly amazing the things that we take in subconsciously. For the longest time when I’ve tried to source pictures / diagrams of pelvic floor muscles, to educate and use in my work, every single picture on google has depicted a white model.
To be really honest, I’m shocked by this but not at all surprised. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a brown or black pelvic floor model in an NHS postnatal info booklet, and C Section scars are rarely shown on images of women of colour.
To me, this is infuriating. As a brown gal working and using the NHS, I think it’s so important that we see people that are representative of all us. In that respect, it isn’t just ethnicity that is disregarded, but a range of other normal features. I want to see diagrams with pubes, diagrams of female bodies where, when sat on the toilet, their boobs hang and there’s a couple of ‘tummy rolls’!
I feel like there has been such a big emphasis behind models in magazines showing stretch-marks, being plus-size, more representative of women of colour, which I’m absolutely living for by the way. But now this needs to be translated to our medical diagrams, as these can be just as impactful on our vision of society as the media can be. ⠀ For both men and women alike, seeking help for an issue ‘down below’ below can be an extremely daunting time and these patients are in such vulnerable positions. If we are really serious about wanting to encourage Pelvic Health compliance and encouraging both men and women to seek medical help, we have to be inclusive. I’m lucky enough that I work and am educated in pelvic health, but many are not. If these diagrams etc are not inclusive, then how can we expect our patients to comply and believe the info given is relevant to them?⠀ ⠀ As a response to this issue, the amazing @elliejackillustrations ever so kindly drew me some pelvic floor diagrams on BROWN bods- yep you heard it!
I would urge all Healthcare Professionals to look at the info sheets you’re giving to patients and evaluate how inclusive they really are. It is the least we can do as a duty of care for all our patients.
As for everyone else, as service users of the NHS, I urge you to evaluate the info given, question why / if it’s inclusive and inquire about this with your providers. We have a long way to go with inclusivity, but the time starts now.
Tiffany Sequeira – Pelvic. Health physiotherapist, @gynaegirl