By Nancy Selfridge, MD
Professor, Clinical Foundations, Ross University School of Medicine, Barbados, West Indies.
Dr. Selfridge reports no financial relationships relevant to this field of study.
• Multiple common “props” in our practice settings can create inclusive or alienating messages for patients. They deserve thoughtful attention and change toward creation of an optimum healing environment.
SYNOPSIS: Because normative messages affecting diversity and inclusion are conveyed by the application of a bandage and its color, healers are called to offer and employ newly available adhesive bandages in a multitude of skin tones.
SOURCE: Oyesiku LO. A plea for making brown bandages stick. Pediatr Dermatol 2020;00:1-3.
At the heart of integrative medicine is the concept of optimal healing environments that “surround the individual with elements that facilitate the innate healing process,” including not only a therapeutic relationship with an empathic and compassionate care provider, but also a healing space for context of care.1
In this eloquent essay, Dr. Oyesiku shares her childhood experience as a person of color, using a brown marker to recolor a “flesh-toned” Band-Aid after a doctor visit. She details the history of adhesive bandages and the failed attempts by various manufacturers (Soul-Aid in the 1970s, Ebon-Aide in 1998, BandShade in 2005, and Nuditone, Browndages, and Urban Armor more recently) to market and distribute their multiple skin tone products. Finally, the author encourages dermatologists to “step away from this normative cue” of beige-colored bandages and “decolonize healing spaces with a simple yet powerful gesture that shows patients they are seen and not deviations from the norm.”
The Twitter communication by a 45-year-old man of color that was featured on international news, detailing his profound emotional reaction to having a Tru-Color brand (founded in 2014, widely available in United States by 2018) adhesive bandage in his own skin tone, underscores her entreaty.2
Indeed, if we think about this in broader terms of all of the therapeutic wraps and bandages we commonly apply in primary care (athletic tape, elastic bandages, splints, braces, graduated compression stockings, etc.), as well as the “props” we have in our practice settings (posters, charts, models, etc.) to support patient education and wellness, we have a very long way to go toward equity in healing. As a manifestation of commitment to optimum healing environments, clinicians are encouraged to employ therapeutic products that support diversity and inclusion whenever possible — and to advocate for product development toward the same.
- Rakel D, Sakallaris B, Jonas W. Chapter 2: Creating Optimal Healing Environments. In: Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Elsevier; 2018.
- Should the colour of plasters match skin tones? BBC News. Published April 25, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/48060767