The actor and activist revealed how her children, including daughter Zahara, were ‘misdiagnosed’ due to their skin tone
Angelina Jolie is speaking out against racial inequities in the world of medical care.
In an op-ed written by the actress and activist, 48, and published in the American Journal of Nursing Wednesday, Jolie detailed new technology that allows for bruising to be seen on darker skin tones. As an advocate against domestic violence, she reveals that she visited forensic nurse Katherine N. Scafide to see “the simple, portable device” that directs “alternate light” on the skin.
The mom of six also offered a glimpse into her family’s own experience, saying she has seen her “children of color be misdiagnosed” due to their skin tone. Near the end of her op-ed, Jolie shared that her 18-year-old daughter Zahara, who is from Ethiopia, had a medical procedure where she was told to look for pink around her incision sites to check for improper healing.
“I had a talk with my daughter, both of us knowing that we would have to look for signs of infection based on our own knowledge, not what the nurse had said, despite her undoubted good intentions,” the Unbroken filmmaker wrote.
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The new “technique is up to five times more effective at detecting bruising than white light, as much as four weeks after injury,” Jolie explained earlier in her piece.
She went on to say that bruising was a top injury of abuse, and yet, survivors of color often did not have injuries that could be seen by the naked eye, so it went undetected by doctors and first responders.
“For abuse victims, evidence of injury is often crucial for accessing legal protection and physical and mental health treatment, making the role of health care professionals critical,” the Maleficent actress wrote. “Without the use of the best available technology to detect bruising, abuse survivors of color are at a significant disadvantage in having their injuries properly identified and documented, are at greater risk for further abuse, and have less of a chance of receiving justice or medical care .”
Jolie acknowledged that this new bruise-detecting technology is only a piece of the bigger picture, but it is an important step toward protecting abuse survivors.
“Let’s be clear: racial bias in forensic evidence collection is only one aspect of much larger societal issues that lead to health care inequities and racially biased health outcomes,” she recognized. “Many factors contribute to the unacceptable, disproportionate impact of domestic violence on communities of color in America, and all must be addressed.”
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Nurses familiar with abuse victims’ injuries told Jolie “crucial evidence” is often missed in investigations due to a lack of ability to see bruises on people of color, which also takes up to 48 hours to show on the human body, she said.
“Based on experience and all that I’ve learned from experts, I was compelled to advocate for a grant program for non-biased forensic technology to be included in the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022, which is now signed into law,” Jolie asserted. “This grant program is an opportunity to support health care professionals in their critical work.”
She added: “Advanced technology should be universally available as part of a push to save lives and improve legal outcomes for abuse survivors, including methods to detect and measure heat at the site of injury regardless of skin tone.”
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Jolie went on to close out the piece by acknowledging that even her family, who “has access to high-quality medical care,” suffers at the expense of inequity in the healthcare system — including the “prioritization of white skin in medicine.”
“From technology to improving diversity and representation in medical research and training, it is past time to embrace new solutions,” she concluded.
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