NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Addressing Health Inequalities – Developing new examples and descriptors for skin conditions

Skin conditions affect all skin tones, but the images used to illustrate the appearance and descriptive language used is often focused on skin of European ancestry (often referred to as ‘white skin’).

This means that many healthcare professionals are unfamiliar with how these conditions present in people with other skin tones. This has resulted in many patients  lacking confidence in their diagnosis.

Addressing Health Inequalities – Developing new examples and descriptors for skin conditions

BRC researchers from our Dermatology Theme worked collaboratively with Vocal – to design a study that will photograph and collate examples of common skin conditions, in particular atopic eczema, psoriasis and acne, in individuals of a variety of ancestries. The researchers will aim to identify the common features seen in the same skin condition across different ancestry groups and highlight the key differences.

The team will also try to understand how research participants describe the appearance of their skin conditions. They hope to identify whether particular words are used to describe certain skin conditions and if these descriptors are more specific to the individual’s ancestry or, the condition as a whole.

The overall aim is to improve familiarity in the presentation of skin conditions in different ancestries, supporting education for healthcare professionals. The study also aims to reduce perceived barriers between the patient and their clinician.

This initial study will be conducted during the next year across three UK hospital sites.

Researcher’s Perspective

The images collected will not only lead to greater understanding of appearances of common skin conditions but also support to improvements in medical education. "Furthermore, our study aims to elevate the patient’s voice, making sure all patients feel that their condition is understood, and their concerns heard.

Dr Elise Kleyn, Clinical Senior Lecturer at The University of Manchester, Honorary Consultant Dermatologist at Salford Care Organisation and BRC Researcher

Participant perspective

Nobody knows our skin like we do, and only we can support healthcare professionals in understanding our skin from our perspectives. Involvement in research such as this is vitally important as it helps to reduce the health inequality in dermatology, not just for us but also for the generations to come.

Paul Mattis, Public contributor