Dire Need for Addressing Health Equity Issues
The shared vision of a society —children, adults and families— that can access and enjoy the godsend of health, safety, and well-being is at the heart of the American dream. It drives and informs the everyday best efforts of The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. Still, this vision remains elusive —forget about arm’s length… it is often eons away— for many Americans because of social inequalities and the country’s extremely complex health landscape. The Alliance, a member-sponsored national strategic action network, has been alerting of this for years: “On a national scale, the U.S. has the most expensive health care delivery system and some of the worst health outcomes among industrialized nations.”
As we are now observing on a large scale, this could not be truer of racial and ethnic minority groups, as they prepare to address the perils of COVID-19 and coronavirus infection. Poverty, discrimination, occupation, wealth gaps, even housing are some of the social determinants of health (SDOH) that lie at the core of (quality) healthcare access.
The following increased risk factors have historically prevented a fabulously large tranche of US denizens from even being allowed to play their cards well at the table of fair opportunity and a chance at an improved quality of life. Suitability to achieve this status is not only circumscribed to physical health, but includes mental, emotional, even economic health.
- Discrimination: Including racism and bigotry in such seemingly disparate, yet interconnected, areas as criminal justice and finance, it can lead to awesome amounts of chronic toxic stress, putting these racial and ethnic minorities in harm’s way of COVID-19.
- Healthcare Access: Uninsuredness is the major culprit here, but other smaller elements may explain the twisted situation better: lack of transportation, child care, or ability to take time off of work; language barriers; patient-provider cultural differences, all leading to a basic mistrust of the government and the healthcare systems responsible for treatment inequities.
- Occupation: Minorities bear the brunt of COVID-19 frontline, high-exposure work settings, such as healthcare facilities, farms, factories, grocery stores, and public transportation.
- Education, Income & Wealth Gaps: Uneven access to higher and/or quality education and lower completion rates put a big damper on college attendance. This then leads to lower paying and less stable jobs, where many of the aforementioned minorities cannot miss work, have sick days, or plan to save for future calamities.
- Housing: Crowded living conditions or the higher risk of eviction and homelessness pose a massive challenge when addressing coronavirus prevention strategies.
Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities offer widespread access to innumerable resources, acting as de facto incubators for learning and innovation to generate new solutions to these tough problems. It is important to take advantage of this and heed their help immediately as we face further outbreaks of this niggling pandemic.