Leading the Charge for Cultural Congruence in Women’s Healthcare

When looking for a provider, we tend to focus on their expertise, location or reviews before booking. But what about their ability to build authentic connections? 

It can make all the difference, especially for women of color. Multiple studies have shown the benefit of culturally responsive healthcare for Black patients. 

Ashlee Wisdom, CEO of Health in Her HUE, knows this reality well, as it was evident throughout her time at NYU as she worked toward her Master’s degree in Healthcare Policy and Management. 

One of her assignments was recruiting patients for clinical studies. Instinctively, she knew cold calls were not going to cut it for patients of color, as distrust in the medical system is understandably common for this demographic. Pivoting her strategy, she prioritized building relationships with potential participants, leading with empathy and care to build trust.   

Her approach worked.  

“Seeing someone who looks like you, who shares your lived experience, who understands your trepidation, will make you more receptive while engaging with them,” Wisdom said. “There's compelling research that shows the value in connecting patients specifically to culturally congruent and culturally responsive providers. We don't have a diverse enough clinical workforce, yet it's important for patients to be seen by providers who have, at the very least, been trained and equipped to provide care that's responsive to their culture and ethnic background.” 

Proving her point further, Wisdom recalls a time when she was facing microaggressions throughout an internship program. This resulted in frequent stress-induced hives, which her doctor at the time, who was not culturally sensitive, failed to pinpoint. Years later, she wished her provider had been equipped to ask the right questions.   

Witnessing this disconnect, and feeling frustration that the system was not set up to support this kind of care, Wisdom decided to change it.  

Health in Her HUE supports women of color, particularly Black women, by helping them safely navigate a healthcare system that wasn't designed for them. The team connects them with trusted providers and health information that reflects their lived experience.  

Not a simple feat, but the team is making strides. 

Health in Her HUE focuses on fostering the three C’s of care: community, content and connections. The platform has 1,400 highly vetted providers and offers culturally tailored content, and interactive community focused solutions, such as peer support groups called Virtual Care Squads.  

“A core thesis of our company is that care is done better in community than in isolation,” Wisdom said. “By combining culturally tailored health education with a peer community, women have the support and accountability they need as they manage their health.” 

And others have taken notice.  

In August 2023, Aveeno partnered with Health in Her HUE for its SkinVisibility program to give 500 sponsored memberships to Black women. 

“One woman shared that the Aveeno campaign resonated with her as someone who's struggled with skin health issues all her life. She never felt like companies who created skincare products really cared about her needs as a woman with sensitive skin,” Wisdom said. 

And in 2024, Health in Her HUE will partner with the CareFirst Engagement Center in Baltimore City to host in-person events that connect women with culturally competent providers. The Engagement Center provides in-person health services and community-centered support, bringing CareFirst closer to the members they serve.    

Wisdom joined 1501 Health’s second cohort class, and still remembers this takeaway from team members Emily Durfee and Soo Jeon, “They encouraged me to be thoughtful but decisive. Have conviction in the decisions that you're making and commit to figuring out what you need to learn.” 

Between securing significant partnerships, cultivating a community of 12,500 users, and recently closing their most recent $3M seed round, the future is promising for her solutions. As Wisdom pointed out, women make 80% of healthcare decisions for their households, and the healthcare ecosystem is finally starting to identify women as key consumers.  

“My focus is making sure women of color's voices and perspectives aren't lost in this growing trend,” Wisdom said. 

About 1501 Health 

1501 Health is a unique partnership between Healthworx and LifeBridge Health, representing expertise in both health insurance and financing (payers) and healthcare delivery and services (providers). The investment and incubation program empowers entrepreneurs to get their innovative solutions to market and expand their impact in healthcare quality, access and affordability. To learn more about 1501Health, visit www.1501Health.com. 
About Healthworx 
Healthworx operates at the intersection of healthcare and innovation by creating, co-creating and investing in companies that are improving healthcare quality, accessibility, affordability and equity. As the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Healthworx envisions a healthier future for all people by changing the way health works. To learn more about Healthworx, visit www.healthworx.com. 
About LifeBridge Health 
LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland. LifeBridge Health includes Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Grace Medical Center and related affiliates. For more information, visit www.lifebridgehealth.org