UB social work researcher to examine effects of implicit bias on African American women’s health

Noelle St. Vil will be the featured speaker at Buffalo All Access on Wednesday

Release Date: September 30, 2019

Noelle St. Vil head shot.
“Our implicit biases have real-world effects on behavior, leading us to discriminate against African American women.”
Noelle St. Vil, assistant professor
School of Social Work

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Establishing equal and consistent access to health care is an essential component needed to close the gap in health disparities African American women experience relative to their non-Hispanic white counterparts, but it’s not enough to completely solve the problem, according to Noelle St. Vil, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.

St. Vil, PhD, will be the featured speaker at the Buffalo All Access event, a benefit for Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Atrium@Rich’s, 1 W. Ferry St. in Buffalo.

Additional details about the event are available on Planned Parenthood’s website.

“If only it were that easy!” says St. Vil. “The assumption that access to health care is all one needs to decrease these disparities ignores a pervasive problem in our society — the problem of implicit bias.”

African American women have a lower life expectancy than non-Hispanic white women, and are more likely, when compared to that same group, to die from heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.

She notes that “access” can be a slippery term that in no way equates to timely diagnosis, proper diagnosis, patient education or equal treatment, largely because implicit bias has instead embedded mistreatment of African American women into the American health care system.

“Our implicit biases have real-world effects on behavior, leading us to discriminate against African American women,” says St. Vil. “And implicit bias is not confined to the health care system.

“Health care is the larger issue for the implicit biases we all hold, which are rampant and prevalent in our society.

“We are all responsible for the health of African American women.”

St. Vil calls the interaction between African American women and the health care system an “unacceptable” reality happening regardless of socioeconomic status and is not limited to low-income women unable to afford the best health care.

She is an expert on black male-female relationships, including the effects of structural racism on relationships, intimate partner violence, sexually transmitted infections and relationship typologies.

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