Health and Wellness in the Black Community

The CADA team had the utmost pleasure of interviewing Dr. Zoe Stallings on health and wellness in the Black community. During our Clubhouse chat, we addressed stigmas, areas of improvement, health concerns, and so much more. Here’s a snippet of our conversation. 

Who is Dr. Zoe Stallings?

Dr. Zoe Stallings

Dr. Zoe Stallings is a board-certified family medicine physician who saw a need to help women and BIPOC specifically in her community. Most of these people are hesitant to go to the doctor or find themselves too busy caring for others to think about making doctor’s appointments for themselves. Knowing this, she opened the MUST Clinic last year in North Carolina. The convenience is outstanding. You can schedule same-day appointments (virtual or IRL). Plus, she travels to patients. To learn more about Dr. Stallings and the MUST Clinic, you can visit her website or Instagram.

How stigmas, racism, and generational traumas have affected Black wellness and health

Recently, Dr. Stallings treated a patient who always felt unclean. She would bathe herself in boiling water up to five times a day. Dr. Stalling discovered that this act stemmed from the generational trauma of racism and slavery. “We need to acknowledge the historical damage that has happened through slavery and colonialism.” Because darker skin was considered brutish, Dr. Stallings’ patient felt the need to scrub herself with brillo pads. The emotional trauma of racism and the psychological impact of feeling like her skin color made her feel dirty caused her physical trauma from boiling her skin.

Women, especially Black women, are often met with an abundance of taboo restrictions about their bodies. Dr. Stallings has seen plenty of examples, specifically feeling unclean during menstrual cycles and seeing pubic hair as unattractive. In some cultures, women may sleep in a separate bed from their partner or excuse themselves from the dinner table during these times.

A specific client of her’s struggled with having pubic hair because it made her feel unclean. She continued to shave excessively to the point of irritating her skin. After addressing the situation, Dr. Stallings encouraged her to have a conversation with her husband on how he would feel about her having this hair. To her surprise, not only did he encourage her to stop shaving, but he also offered to help her with the upkeep. Dr. Stallings made it clear that although these topics may be seen as taboo in society, we must continue to have these conversations to normalize a woman’s life.

Black women deal with guilt when taking care of themselves

Black women tend to put themselves last because they feel there’s so much they have to carry. Dr. Stallings makes it a point to make her clients feel seen and heard by diagnosing them with reasons such as caregiver stress disorder or facing racism. This validates her patient’s problems so that they see themselves as more of a priority. 

Misleading marketing in personal care products

Dr. Stallings shared that phrases like “odor eliminating” and “fresh scented” are misleading. They fuel this idea that “down there” needs to smell like flowers when that is just not the case. 

She also told us that personal care products do not have the same level of regulation cosmetics have. Terms like “dermatologist tested” do not mean the tests yielded safe results. This claim raises questions for Dr. Stallings, “What dermatologist? What did they test the product on? Who did they test the product on?” 

We must also look out for chemicals in our products, including formaldehyde, chlorine/chloride, parabens/petroleum (plastic), and sulfates. All of these chemicals are dangerous for your skin and can cause irritation. Often, labels will mislead buyers by listing these ingredients with a different name or uncommon variant.

How to improve the health and wellness industry

There is always room for improvement, especially in the wellness and health field. When we asked Dr. Stallings what areas of health do we need to improve care for Black people, she replied, “Everywhere. From pediatrics to pain management. We need to first start by acknowledging that bias exists and that racism has impacted healthcare so substantially.” 

The history of Black people being used in unethical experiments over decades and centuries created lies like Black women and men have higher pain tolerances, and Black women are expected to be aggressive. Because of this, Black people are less likely to be prescribed pain medicines like opiates. Moreover, they are less likely to have their prescriptions filled without a call to their doctor beforehand. 

Stigmas and biases affect Black people’s medical experience, so we must get comfortable letting people have their own spaces where they feel safe and understood. The MUST Clinic takes this exact approach by creating a quality healthcare facility that works for all BIPOC without stigmas and biases.

We want to thank Dr. Zoe Stallings for joining us in our Clubhouse conversation about the importance of Black wellness and health spaces. What the MUST Clinic is doing is not just important but is vital.

Please share your thoughts and comments with us on Instagram @cada_consult and make sure to follow @mustclinic for more updates on everything health.