In comparison to other high-income countries, the health of Americans has been on the decline for decades. Factors such as poor education, inadequate public policies, resources, and lack of opportunities are responsible for this reason. Despite the rising cost of healthcare, there has been very little intervention to combat the growing economic and health gap. In short, people are getting poorer and sicker. To eliminate health disparities, it is essential that there is a heavy focus on targeting not only the healthcare system but the economic and social factors that affect Americans’ access to it.
According to the CDC, health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” Health disparities or inequalities are types of unfair health differences closely linked with economic, social, and political policies or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people.
It is not new information that people in vulnerable groups (such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc…) experience higher rates of poor health and disease for a range of health conditions including but not limited to diabetes, obesity, hypertension, mental illness, and cancer as the highest. While on the surface it might seem plausible to implement a “one solution that solves all,” healthcare administrations need to understand the specific needs of a particular population.
This is where the distinction between equality and equity becomes very important. By definition, equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities, whereas equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. For example, when there is a statistic that states that Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth or 30% of Hispanics have high blood pressure, instead of focusing only on the problem, there should be more emphasis on identifying the sources.
It is imperative that the government focus on improving education quality, providing institutions with fresh food options, affordable housing, stronger workforce safety, and protocol regulations. There are multiple studies that show a direct correlation between having your basic needs fulfilled to living a healthier lifestyle. However, many Americans are unable to do so when funding and misinformation are being improperly spewed. It is important that we understand that healthcare is not an isolated institution but rather a small component of a larger interconnected system.