Health Disparities and Inequalities
“Health Disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, mental health, cognitive, sensory, or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, geographic location, or other characteristics historically link to discrimination or exclusion. ...health equity is achieving social justice in health.” - Dr. Jamie Mitchell
Health Disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, mental health, cognitive, sensory, or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, geographic location, or other characteristics historically link to discrimination or exclusion. Not all health differences are health disparities. For example, we might expect to see more difficulties with mobility among older adults than younger adults. Or more instances of muscle injury amongst professional athletes than the general population. These differences are not due to discrimination or exclusion from opportunities. According to Dr. Paula Braveman, a noted scholar of health disparities, health equity is achieving social justice in health. This means that no one is denied the possibility to be healthy for belonging to a group that has been historically, economically, or socially disadvantaged. This is the principle underlying a commitment to reduce and ultimately eliminate disparities in health and their underlying social determinants. Health disparities are the metric that we use to measure progress toward achieving health equity. Take a moment and read the article provided by Dr. Paula Braveman, that elucidates the concept of health disparities. Then move over to the discussion board and provide your own example of a known health disparity, along with a source to back it up. Social determinants of health are social and economic factors with important direct effect or indirect effects on health. There are some key social factors such as one's income or educational attainment that are correlated to many health outcomes across populations, racial ethnic groups, and communities. Other social determinants are specific to a particular health condition or certain populations that are disproportionately effected more so than others. While health is deeply impacted by personal lifestyle choices and access to and utilization of high quality medical care. Health is also shaped by the conditions in which we live, work, and go to school, and our social and economic opportunities to be healthy. We cannot expect individuals and communities to be healthy without the proper context of health-promoting resources that come from our larger environment, and are shaped by multi-level policies. The term social determinant of health, is often used to refer broadly to any non-medical factor influencing health, including health related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs or behavior. These factors however, represent only the most down stream determinants in the causal pathways influencing health. That is, the outcomes you can most readily see. But these outcomes are shaped by more upstream determinants. Bigger, broader factors that shape the opportunities for health, contribute to working in neighborhood conditions, and help determine the choices available to those who are trying to prevent disease and live healthfully. As of 2016, the United States ranks 42nd in the world for life expectancy. Despite our wealth as a nation and the large proportion of resources devoted to healthcare overall. In the last few decades, the US has seen significant increases in the number of individuals who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, lung diseases, and cancer. Certain racial and ethnic groups and individuals with fewer socioeconomic resources are disproportionately burdened by cancer and chronic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that health disparities are not just evident in health outcomes in terms of diseases that individuals acquire, but also at who has access to healthcare, who's empowered and knowledgeable to engage in healthy behaviors. And who's more likely to be exposed to health hazards such as lead paint, respiratory toxins, pollution, or contaminated water, in their home, work, or school environments. My own research concerns the health disparities experienced by African-American men. A culturally and socioeconomically diverse group who experienced one of the heaviest burdens of cancer and chronic disease in the United States. With regard to cancer, the mortality rates for prostate, stomach, larynx, and myelomas are still more than twice as high for African-American men than non-Hispanic white men. And despite decreasing cancer rates among much of the adult US population, African-American men are not always benefiting from the advances in cancer treatment and early diagnosis, that men other racial and ethnic groups are. Further, the life expectancy for an African-American men born this year is approximately 71.8 years. Which is five years shorter than the life expectancy for non-Hispanic white males. Nearly seven years shorter than for African-American women. And almost ten years shorter than the life expectancy for white women. As you can see, there is a distinct racial and gender gradient to several health disparities in the United States.