09 November 2022
There is a serious representation gap in psoriatic disease. For too long, images of psoriasis have centered people with light skin and in European clinical settings. IFPA, the global organization representing all people with psoriatic disease, is launching a photo library to reveal the true diversity of the psoriatic disease community.
Go to any image database, and type “psoriasis” in the search bar. The results? Invariably, you will scroll past several images of isolated body parts displaying angry, red lesions. You may find stock photo models with flawless skin pantomiming an itchy elbow, or posing with an equally handsome counterpart dressed in quintessential blue scrubs. How many times must you click “next page” before finding a single image of someone with black or brown skin? And as for the gray plaque that often characterizes psoriasis in darker skin tones, can you find any images at all?
Sofia Lovi, a Malaysian patient advocate, is correcting this disparity through an IFPA project titled All the Colors We Are. A growing image library on IFPA’s website presents psoriatic disease in diverse people and in real-life contexts. These images are available for free download.
“Psoriatic disease affects all people. By failing to show psoriatic disease as it really is, we are perpetuating implicit biases with harmful consequences,” explained Sofia Lovi. “In certain parts of the world, psoriatic disease is mistaken for a curse. People who have visible plaque are ostracized from society. Stigma makes life with psoriatic disease extremely difficult, and it’s unjust. IFPA is working to fill the gap in awareness.”
Lack of representation can even lead to health risks. Training materials in dermatology often have limited photographic examples of patients of color. In fact, many medical textbooks have exactly zero images of psoriasis on dark skin. As a result, doctors fail to recognize psoriatic disease in their patients. Additional years before receiving an appropriate treatment can have long-term health consequences for those people.
Beyond collecting photos, IFPA’s diversity initiative is consulting experts and co-creating educational materials with national patient associations to give the public a more accurate and balanced perspective on psoriasis. Articles, webinars, and speeches at international conferences will call attention to the lack of research into this topic, empowering physicians to get informed.
Frida Dunger Johnsson, IFPA’s Executive Director said, “Psoriatic disease exist everywhere. It is IFPAs role to represent and unite all people - regardless of where they live, what type of psoriatic disease they have, or how it impacts their lives. In our strategy we make it clear. We leave no one behind. With this image database we show psoriatic disease as it really is. It shows all the colors we are.”
Visit ifpa-pso.com to learn more about psoriatic disease and the diversity of people who have it.