Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Meet The Black Female Founder Closing The Wellness Gap For Women Of Color

Kristi Moore Griffith / 719 Studios
Founder Ashley Harmon struggled with chronic fatigue, digestive problems, and breakouts on her skin for years. Ultimately, Harmon ended up being diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency and Polycystic Ovary System (PCOS). But after trying out a multitude of vitamins to no avail, she decided to focus her life’s work on creating her own supplements to help close this wellness gap for women of color.
A deficiency in vitamin D has been liked to “a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and low mood and energy.” For Black women, this deficiency has also been associated with a heightened risk of developing bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal infection.
It has been scientifically proven that it’s harder for Black people “to meet the standard intake of vitamin D naturally,” according to The National Library Of Medicine. As a board-certified physician at One Medical in North Carolina Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk, says, “Melanin is fantastic because it protects us against skin cancer, but in protecting us against skin cancer, it blocks the UVB rays, that your body needs to make vitamin D.”
“It means that we have to work a little harder to get enough of the sunlight we need for our body to make vitamin D. So it’s our melanin, that’s helping save us. But also, we have to work against [it] a little bit to get that vitamin D,” Dr. Malchuk continued.
“So when it comes to the sun, a fair-skinned person can spend about 20 minutes in direct sunlight without sunblock, and that will help them get the amount of vitamin D that they need,” added Malchuk. “Whereas brown people, we have to get at least 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how much melanin you have in your skin, in order to get the amount of sunlight you need to make the vitamin D.”
One way for Black people to mitigate this deficiency is supplements. Recognizing this need, Harmon created “Mela Vitamins and the first multivitamin for melanated women,” to prioritize wellness in the Black community.
“There has been a long history of racism and exploitation in the health industry, and Black people continue to experience bias in medical treatment, underrepresentation in clinical studies and a lack of effective preventative health products,” Harmon told ESSENCE. “This history has also created generational distrust that has kept many people in our community from accessing preventative health care, managing chronic diseases and even taking vitamins.
“Racism in healthcare and our daily lives not only creates distrust, but literally harms our health. Through our work at Mela Vitamins, we’re committed to addressing these disparities by recognizing and accounting for the unique nutritional needs of melanated bodies,” Harmon shared. “We understand that genetics, socioeconomic factors and higher stress levels play a significant role in health outcomes, and are focused on addressing these challenges in our community.”
“We believe that our supplements can be the first step in building a healthy foundation in communities of color by not only addressing health risk factors and nutritional needs, but also in providing educational campaigns that build awareness and trust,” Harmon stated.



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