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Racial Bias in Wearable Health Technologies: The Need for Inclusive Design and Testing

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Zara Nwosu
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Racial Bias in Wearable Health Technologies: The Need for Inclusive Design and Testing

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In the age of rapid technological advancement, wearable health technologies have become an essential part of our lives. However, a recent study reveals that these technologies often exacerbate racial health inequities, raising serious concerns about their design and testing processes. The study, titled 'Race Correction and Algorithmic Bias in Atrial Fibrillation Wearable Technologies', was published in the journal Health Equity and is available for open access.

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The Issue with Wearable Health Technologies

At the core of this issue is the use of photoplethysmographic (PPG) sensors in consumer devices. PPG sensors are commonly used in wearable tech devices to monitor heart rate and other vital signs. However, these sensors have been found to systematically exclude people with darker skin tones during development and testing. This exclusion reflects a system of racism inherent in the development of these technologies and highlights the need for a shift in approach. The researchers argue for adjusting racism as a system rather than making adjustments based on race as a biological construct.

Nursing Education and Racial Bias

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Another study published in the journal 'Science Direct' addresses health disparities, structural racism, and implicit bias in nursing education. The study aimed to analyze and quantify the representation of dark skin tones (DST) images in nursing textbooks. The results were alarming: only 12.3% of photo images and 2.4% of drawn graphics depicted dark skin tones. On the other hand, light skin tones were overrepresented, with 60.9% of photo images and 82.8% of drawn graphics displaying light skin tones. This disparity emphasizes the need for curricular changes in nursing programs to address racism and the social determinants of health.

Importance of Diversity in Research

An article on 'Science Direct' further highlights the importance of diversity in research populations for inclusive design. It stresses the need for human factors professionals to develop technologies and tools that benefit all. The article discusses barriers to participation in research and strategies to increase recruitment and retention throughout the research process.

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Reducing Healthcare Disparities with Advanced Methods

Confronting the issue of healthcare disparity due to data imbalance, a study published in the journal 'NCBI' explores the use of advanced transfer learning (TL) methods in ophthalmic healthcare. The study demonstrates a novel application of TL that improves the reliability of analysis, especially in small sample size groups, thus reducing healthcare disparities.

Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Health System

A survey by 'The Lund Report' of nearly 6,300 patients reaffirms the prevalence of racial discrimination in the U.S. health system. Many people from racial and ethnic minority groups worry about receiving good healthcare based on their appearance. The findings highlight the impact of discrimination on health outcomes and stress the importance of diversity among healthcare providers.

In conclusion, there is an urgent need to address the racial bias in health technologies and the wider healthcare system. Recognizing and adjusting systemic racism, increasing diversity in research, and implementing advanced methods to reduce healthcare disparities are some of the ways to create a more inclusive and equitable health environment for all.

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