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Images in Health-related Communications from Sri Lanka: Is there a Racial Bias?

Images in Health-related Communications from Sri Lanka: Is there a Racial Bias? Racial bias and language discrimination are recognized in the health sector in countries such as Sri Lanka. This may extend to images used in health communication and educational literature. We analyzed the racial and ethnic representation in a sample of newspapers and websites related to health obtained over a period. Most of the human figures in health-related messages in newspapers had an overrepresentation of Caucasians. This trend was absent in websites where 73% of the images of Sri Lankans. The reasons for this pattern could be due to the availability of image-quality photographs and exposure to a norm that is racially biased. For example, a majority of images in medical textbooks and prestigious journals are of white Caucasians. A predominance of such images could have two impacts. At an individual level, it would affect acquiring skills of visual diagnoses. At a societal level, it may reinforce a view that most forms of health-related knowledge are created in the West and could add to existing discrimination based on skin color (i.e., colorism). The latter is a known psychosocial stressor that contributes to psychological distress among socially disadvantaged populations and promotes behaviors adverse to health and residential segregation. These may contribute to poorer physical, mental, and infant health outcomes in dark-skinned individuals compared to lighter-skinned in the USA and Canada. Such discrimination within the health system would compromise basic human dignity, disempower patients, and violate the principle of autonomy. Sri Lankan media, the healthcare profession, and educationists need to recognize the relevance and importance of using images that appropriately reflect the realities of their own environment, its people, and patients. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Asian Bioethics Review Springer Journals

Images in Health-related Communications from Sri Lanka: Is there a Racial Bias?

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Publisher
Springer Journals
Copyright
Copyright © National University of Singapore and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2021
ISSN
1793-8759
eISSN
1793-9453
DOI
10.1007/s41649-021-00195-x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Racial bias and language discrimination are recognized in the health sector in countries such as Sri Lanka. This may extend to images used in health communication and educational literature. We analyzed the racial and ethnic representation in a sample of newspapers and websites related to health obtained over a period. Most of the human figures in health-related messages in newspapers had an overrepresentation of Caucasians. This trend was absent in websites where 73% of the images of Sri Lankans. The reasons for this pattern could be due to the availability of image-quality photographs and exposure to a norm that is racially biased. For example, a majority of images in medical textbooks and prestigious journals are of white Caucasians. A predominance of such images could have two impacts. At an individual level, it would affect acquiring skills of visual diagnoses. At a societal level, it may reinforce a view that most forms of health-related knowledge are created in the West and could add to existing discrimination based on skin color (i.e., colorism). The latter is a known psychosocial stressor that contributes to psychological distress among socially disadvantaged populations and promotes behaviors adverse to health and residential segregation. These may contribute to poorer physical, mental, and infant health outcomes in dark-skinned individuals compared to lighter-skinned in the USA and Canada. Such discrimination within the health system would compromise basic human dignity, disempower patients, and violate the principle of autonomy. Sri Lankan media, the healthcare profession, and educationists need to recognize the relevance and importance of using images that appropriately reflect the realities of their own environment, its people, and patients.

Journal

Asian Bioethics ReviewSpringer Journals

Published: Apr 1, 2022

Keywords: Race; Bias; Health communication

References