Positive intersectionality: a blessing to clinical diagnosis

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Khushi Singh, an Indian, 19 years old, second year medical student at International Higher School of Medicine (IHSM) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”, whereas, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Social well-being is achieved when we have good relationships, social stability, and peace.

Intersectionality is one of the theories which, I believe, hinders one from maintaining social well-being, and hence, good health. A sample of 869 women from the 2007 wave of the U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Child Development Supplement was investigated. While Black women developed the intrapersonal rewards of self-efficacy and self-esteem through socioeconomic status, they did not experience the same degree of health benefits with these advantages as White women. Which only proves that intersectionality changes ways of medical care towards patients with different colors.

We all know that there are two sides to a coin and likewise, two sides to this theory. While negative intersectionality hinders proper healthcare, on the other side, positive intersectionality helps in accurate diagnosis. It shows that paying particular attention to the ways that axes of identity and structural inequality converge can yield unexpected results. For example, it is typically understood that those who are middle-class generally experience better health and health outcomes than those who are poor. Another study showed that the highest SES [socioeconomic status] group of African American women has equivalent or higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, hypertension, and excess weight than the lowest SES group of white women.

While social categorization is considered a hoax to society, I believe it is a blessing to clinical diagnosis. But intersectionality, as we discussed above, can be negative as well. We don’t need to eradicate intersectionality but what we need to do is differentiate between the positive and negative aspects of it. That can be achieved by staying alert and aware of your surroundings, checking your body language while talking to patients from different racial backgrounds, making sure that every human being regardless of their color or social status is getting equal and efficient treatment. There should be an HR department in every hospital to deal with situations like this and provide a neutral and unbiased solution.

In conclusion, intersectionality is a two-sided coin with positive and negative aspects to it. One can distinguish between them by simply being aware of their surroundings and their subconscious. While social categorization can hinder one patient’s healthcare, it can prove to be a blessing to another patient’s diagnosis. Therefore, the barrier of social cues which hinder proper healthcare does not need to be broken but it needs to be leaped.

About the author

Khushi Singh is an Indian, 19 years old, second year medical student at International Higher School of Medicine (IHSM) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She comes from a family of educationalists and is a restless learner whose hobbies are related to art and literature. She is currently serving as the General Assistant for the Standing Committee on Professional Exchange (SCOPE) at Asian Medical Students’ Association- Kyrgyzstan (AMSA-KG). She is a very enthusiastic person and strives to participate in every university extension she can find.

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