How One App Is Helping Black Women Find Culturally Competent Care

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Key Takeaways

  • Health In Her Hue is a digital platform that connects Black women and women of color to culturally competent healthcare providers, health content, and community. 
  • Black women and women of color can connect with BIPOC therapists, doctors, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, and more on the Health In Her Hue app.
  • Health In Her Hue will be migrating from an app to a web platform sometime this year. 

While Ashlee Wisdom, MPH, founder and CEO of Health In Her HUE (HIHH), was a master's of public health student at New York University, she noticed that Black women and women of color didn’t have access to health information she was reading daily from academic journals.

Coupled with her negative experiences in the past with culturally insensitive healthcare providers, Wisdom was driven to create HIHH to help bridge the health divide.

HIHH is a digital platform that launched in 2018. It helps connect Black women and women of color to culturally competent healthcare providers, health content, and community. The platform includes a provider directory, which users can search and filter for providers that meet their cultural needs as well as a content library that centers on the lived experiences of Black women and issues that predominately affect them. 

Wisdom hopes that this platform will advance the health of Black women and women of color by increasing access to culturally competent and sensitive providers, therapists, doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, and more. 

Verywell spoke with Wisdom and Magdala Chery, MD, MPH, a board-certified internal medicine physician based in New Jersey and a HIHH provider, to learn how about how the app is helping make care more accessible.

Verywell: What inspired you to start Health In Her HUE? 

Wisdom: I started building Health in Her Hue while I was an MPH student at New York University and had the privilege of having access to academic journals. I kept reading papers for different classes and seeing across the board the poor health outcomes that exist for Black women. I remember feeling really privileged to have this heightened awareness as a Black woman about health disparities. If I wasn’t sitting in this classroom, I wasn't sure I would really be as aware of these issues. So I wanted to take information out of the ivory tower and make it more accessible and actionable for everyday Black women.

The other half of that story is I was working for an academic medical center here in New York City. One department that I worked in was a very toxic work environment for me as a Black woman. It ultimately took a toll on my health. I was breaking out in chronic hives and thought I was allergic to something so I saw an allergist, who happened to be a White woman. She was a nice doctor but she ran tests on me and couldn’t figure out what was causing the hives. It never dawned on me to share with her like, "Hey, I’m working in this really racist environment and it’s toxic." Plus, I was in graduate school full time.

It never dawned on me to share those things with her because I didn’t feel like she would be able to relate or even understand. When I left the toxic job, the hives stopped. I realized that the hives were being triggered by the stress that I was experiencing. I remember reflecting on that experience and thinking about how different my communication and interactions are with my Black gynecologist compared to what they were with my White allergist. If I shared more with her about what was going on, she would have been able to get to the root cause of what was triggering the hives, as opposed to just telling me to take two Allegra every day to keep them contained.

I figured if no one else is building a solution to support Black women and women of color for navigating this healthcare system that really wasn’t designed for us, then I want to build something to help us.

Verywell: How does HIHH fit within the health space? 

Wisdom: I did a lot of research and didn’t really see anything in the market that was specifically designed to meet the unique healthcare needs of women of color, particularly Black women.

I went to Howard University for my undergraduate degree. Within this alumni email group, at least once a week, I receive an email exchange asking for a recommendation for Black therapists or Black gynecologists. Seeing that was my first inclination that there was a need for a directory or tool to help us find culturally aligned or culturally competent providers. That didn’t exist at the time. 

Chery: We're using technology so we can hopefully reach Black women everywhere. There are women who are in areas where they can’t find providers of color. So how do we connect them to systems that make them feel safe? And how do we help them figure out where to find a doctor who may not be a provider of color but is culturally sensitive and has gotten good reviews about how they care for women who look like them. 

Verywell: How does HIHH work and how will it grow? 

Wisdom: We currently have an app and that’s where people are connecting, and searching and finding those providers. We’re going to be launching a new web experience.

One of the things that we’re excited about in the future is bringing on the capability of telemedicine consults or telehealth consults for women who are using our platform. We really want to bridge access gaps.

While we know technology isn’t a panacea, it does have a lot of power in closing some of the access gaps to patients who are actively seeking culturally sensitive or culturally aligned providers. Let's say you're a Black woman in a rural area or an area where you just don’t have access to a Black doctor who’s in your insurance network. You can come to the HIHH platform and get a second opinion from a doctor who is culturally sensitive or culturally aligned.

Chery: We’re getting more providers listed, making sure they have training for health equity and cultural competency, and diving deeper into the dialogue of what it means to care for Black women. Where are we having gaps? How could we actually take their stories, learn from them, and change our behaviors in the practice of health care? So I’m really excited about how much we’re growing and the ideas that we have. 

What This Means For You

To join Health In Her HUE, follow the download instructions at app.healthinherhue.com

Verywell: What has been HIHH’s impact so far?

Wisdom: We get lots of messages from both patients and providers who tell us that they’re really grateful about what we built because they’ve been able to make really meaningful connections and have had improved experiences with providers. 

Since using the HIHH platform, one doctor shared with us that she was able to diagnose a woman who had lots of fibroids. The woman had been complaining to other doctors, and no one ever took the time to do an ultrasound. This patient found [the doctor] on HIHH, and the doctor did an ultrasound and was able to support her. Those are some of the life-changing connections that we’ve been able to make and want to be able to continue to do so.

Verywell: What do you want readers to walk away with from this story? 

Wisdom: We’re making the case as a company that community plays a huge role in the care and the quality of care that people get. I think oftentimes it gets undervalued but the one thing we constantly hear from our members is how much they value the community component. If you’re given a diagnosis of let’s say, breast cancer, and even if your doctor is a doctor of color, they’ve never actually been diagnosed with breast cancer, they don’t really know the journey you’re about to go through. 

So connecting with other women who have had the same diagnosis as you or gone through something similar to you, helps you feel really supported and not isolated in your experience.

Chery: I would hope people who engage with our platform understand that this is our first bridge to building trust. We cannot assume that trust is automatically given to us, because a lot of us, are Black women who work on the team. But we have come about this with the utmost level of respect and desire to actually bring about change. 

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