Nine years ago, Kristie Fields, a Navy veteran and former shipyard worker, was battling breast cancer and struggling with medical bills. A nurse at the hospital suggested that she share her story on the local news and ask for help. However, Fields and her husband dismissed the idea, partly due to pride and a desire to avoid being seen as needy. This reluctance to seek assistance is not uncommon among Black Americans, who are 50% more likely than white Americans to go into medical debt.
While crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe have become popular for individuals seeking help with medical expenses, studies show that Black Americans use these platforms less frequently and typically raise less money. This discrepancy exacerbates existing racial inequalities. A recent study found that of the 827 medical campaigns on GoFundMe that raised over $100,000 in 2020, only five were for Black women, and two of those campaigns were organized by white individuals. GoFundMe acknowledges the limitations of their platform and its inability to reach everyone in need.
The lower usage of crowdfunding by Black Americans may be attributed to the persistent wealth gap between Black and white Americans. Black individuals tend to have fewer personal connections with wealthier individuals who can contribute to their campaigns. Additionally, there is a cultural aversion in the Black community to seeking help from strangers, as it can perpetuate stereotypes and negative perceptions.
Fields, who comes from a humble background, learned from her mother the importance of relying on family and friends rather than seeking assistance from strangers. She was fortunate to have a strong support system during her cancer treatment, which eliminated the need to turn to crowdfunding or the local news for help. Instead, she and her family now dedicate themselves to supporting others undergoing cancer treatment by providing them with groceries, gas cards, and even medical supplies.
Fields recently opened a nonprofit store called PinkSlayer, which offers discounted wigs, prosthetics, and skin lotions to cancer patients. Her goal is to create a space where individuals can find the support they need without feeling exposed or judged. By fighting against the stigma associated with seeking help, Fields hopes to empower others to navigate their own cancer journeys with dignity and strength.
Despite her own ongoing medical debt, Fields remains committed to helping others and creating a supportive community. Her story highlights the complexities and challenges faced by individuals with medical bills, particularly within the context of racial disparities and cultural perceptions.
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Rohit Malhotra is a medical expert and health journalist who offers evidence-based advice on fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being. His articles aim to help readers lead healthier lives.