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Angelina Jolie says racial disparity in health care has 'endangered' her children of color

Jolie went on to criticize the "prioritization of white skin in medicine" in a new op-ed.
/ Source: TODAY

Angelina Jolie is addressing the health inequalities she sees when it comes to race.

The actor and humanitarian published an op-ed for the American Journal of Nursing on July 5, in which she touched on the new technology that detects bruises on darker skin colors when it comes to survivors of domestic violence. Jolie, 48, began by writing how many medical research, imagery and training centers focus on white skin and as a result medical professionals “often miss injuries depending on race and ethnicity.”

"As the mother of children of multiple races, I have seen my children of color be misdiagnosed, at times in ways that endangered their health," Jolie, who is mother to six children, wrote.

Jolie adopted her eldest child, Maddox, from his birth country Cambodia. Her adopted daughter Zahara is Ethiopian, while Pax was born in Vietnam. Jolie also shares three biological children with ex-husband Brad Pitt; daughter Shiloh and twins Knox and Vivienne.

Angelina Jolie with her children Knox, Vivienne, Pax, Shiloh, Zahara and Maddox at "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind" screening at Crosby Street Hotel on Feb. 25, 2019 in New York City.
Angelina Jolie with her children Knox, Vivienne, Pax, Shiloh, Zahara and Maddox at "The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind" screening at Crosby Street Hotel on Feb. 25, 2019 in New York City.Monica Schipper / Getty Images for Netflix

Jolie continued by discussing bruising in darker skin colors and how it's more difficult to detect and document without the proper tools. While the actor focuses on helping domestic abuse survivors, she did share a personal story about her own experience when it came to her children.

“Reflecting personally, when my daughter Zahara, who is from Ethiopia, was hospitalized for a medical procedure, the nurse told me to call her ‘if she turns pink near her incisions,’” Jolie recalled. “I stood looking blankly at her, not sure she understood what was wrong with what she had said. When she left the room, I had a talk with my daughter, both of us knowing that we would have to look for signs of infection based on our own knowledge, not what the nurse had said, despite her undoubted good intentions.”

Jolie added that even though her family has “access to high-quality medical care, simple diagnoses are missed because of race and continued prioritization of white skin in medicine.”

She added that at a societal level, racial disparities in health care affect the outcomes for millions of people. “From technology to improving diversity and representation in medical research and training, it is past time to embrace new solutions,” she concluded.

Back in 2020, Jolie revealed that Zahara and Shiloh endured “medical challenges” in a first-person essay for Time magazine on International Women’s Day.

“I have spent the last two months in and out of surgeries with my eldest daughter, and days ago watched her younger sister go under the knife for a hip surgery,” Jolie wrote at the time, not specifying what type of surgeries Zahara underwent.

“I have watched my daughters care for one another,’’ she wrote. “My youngest daughter studied the nurses with her sister, and then assisted the next time.”

Jolie, herself, has had her own medical challenges. In 2013, she revealed that she underwent a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing breast cancer after her mother,  Marcheline Bertrand, died in 2007 of breast cancer at 56. Her aunt and grandmother also died due to the disease.