February 28, 2012
By Aubrey Bittel
|Natabhona Mabachi, Ph.D. (left) and Crystal Lumpkins, Ph.D. of KU's Department of Family Medicine|
Founded in 2009 by an associate professor of art at Washburn University, The Waiting Room Project began as a way to explore women's health issues through art. It has since grown to a national level and includes creative works by dozens of artists, writers and other creative partners.
KU's Department of Family Medicine's Natabhona Mabachi, Ph.D., and Crystal Lumpkins, Ph.D. are two of the authors that contributed articles for the exhibition's companion book, A Waiting Room of One's Own.
Mabachi's chapter, "Desperately Seeking Healthcare: Women, Poverty and Health in America," focuses on the health disparities between women in different economic classes, and more specifically between women of different ethnic backgrounds living in poverty.
Women are more likely to seek careers in teaching or in caretaking occupations that typically aren't considered high-earning fields. In addition, if a couple separates, the responsibility of child-rearing often falls on the woman and collecting child support is not always as easy as it should be. Therefore impoverished women are less likely than their male counterparts to be able to afford the basic necessities of life, and healthcare is often sacrificed in a decision between vaccinating children and feeding them.
Art in "A Waiting Room of One's Own"
A woman's situation is liable to be even bleaker if she isn't white, and Mabachi explores these health disparities. For example, American Indian and Alaskan Natives suffer from particularly high rates of obesity and tobacco use, yet problems accessing basic healthcare are often more challenging than in other minority groups.
The way to begin smoothing out health disparities across economic levels and ethnic backgrounds will not be easy, Mabachi writes, but the responsibility falls on everyone to make a change. From policymakers to community members, she says everyone must make a conscious effort to understand and acknowledge how poverty limits the options and, ultimately, the health of women in America.
Lumpkins tackles a different though related issue in her article, "Marketing to the Soul, Health Advertising and African-American Women." She describes the disconnect between health care marketers and those in need.
Successful advertising for drugs geared toward conditions prevalent in African American populations could make a world of difference, Lumpkins writes, yet campaigns for such drugs are more often designed for the most generalized version of the audience. Advertisers worry that campaigns focusing on a specific ethnic group will draw as much criticism for doing so as if they had included no racial cues at all.
Though the challenge is complex, Lumpkins recommends obtaining feedback at a grassroots level — starting the conversation with individuals, as she has done with her own research — as the first step. She hopes that with increased sensitivity to cultural differences, progress can be made and helpful drugs can get to the people that will most benefit from them.
For more information and pictures of the artwork, visit The Waiting Room Project website. The exhibition is also up through March 16, 2012, in the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery at the Topeka and Shawnee Public Library.