Tennis superstar Serena Williams is now a key investor in HUED, “a platform that diversifies the patient/doctor connection by connecting patients (of color) with health and medical professionals (of color) that specifically understand their cultural, physical and mental needs.” A startup founded by Kimberly Wilson in 2018, HUED was created to specifically address racial health disparities currently found throughout the United States.
According to HUED’s website, “Access to (quality) healthcare remains a prevailing problem for people of color. In fact, African Americans and Latinos experience 30 to 40 [percent] poorer health outcomes than White Americans. Research shows that people of color are not getting the health and medical care they need because of fear, access to quality healthcare, distrust of doctors, and because their symptoms and pains are often dismissed.”
Racial health disparities are a very real thing that can have a major impact on people of color. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states, “For racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, health disparities take on many forms, including higher rates of chronic disease and premature death compared to the rates among whites.”
This is especially important for athletes, who are constantly pushing their bodies to their limits and have higher rates of injury than the rest of the population.
Zach Hentges, a nationally certified athletic trainer and Central Methodist University alum, provided a first-hand account of the importance of health disparities among athletes of color. Hentges specializes in injury prevention techniques, acute injury care, and rehabilitation services.
As an athletic trainer responsible for the care of more than 10 teams and over 400 athletes, Hentges is keenly aware of health disparities and stated that he has seen a number of studies showing the differences in outcomes of medical treatment, as well as the ability to access effective healthcare among different races and socioeconomic classes. In order to combat these disparities, Hentges tries to keep as many of his clients in-house as possible.
“Not every health professional is aware of these disparities or takes the time to address them,” Hentges said. “By creating injury prevention and rehabilitation plans directly with my athletes, this allows me to help minimize the impact of economic disparities or a lack of trust within hospital healthcare systems, and still produce favorable outcomes for my athletes.”
The logic Hentges follows correlates with the ideas behind HUED. By providing health experts who are aware of the disparities, taking steps to combat them, and instilling confidence in clients, the expectation is that health outcomes will improve. Hentges also noted that simply addressing those health disparities is not enough and that his athletes must be secure in their trust of their trainer or healthcare provider.
“What I have found that works the best to build confidence in my athletes, as well as their families, is to have open and active communication with everything that is being done,” Hentges said. “I take extra time to explain what every exercise, stretch, or modality I am implementing is doing for that athlete and the role it plays in helping them return to not only their sport, but also their daily lives.”
HUED is an organization that has a perspective rooted in the health realities that athletes experience every day. If trainers working directly with athletes understand the importance of addressing racial health disparities in their work, physicians must also have that same level of understanding to properly treat their patients. This is where HUED steps in — helping physicians of color to provide care specifically for other people of color and to instill trust in their patients. Once again, we see Williams leading the pack in emphasizing and addressing issues for athletes of color.