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Health Equity: Understanding and Identifying the Root Causes of Inequalities

Are you a medical professional or a community activist? Just passionate about public health?

You may already have first-hand knowledge of disparities within your local community, but have you considered how health inequities come to be in the first place?

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion seeks health equity. The NCCDPHP believes that we can achieve health equity and everyone should have an equal opportunity to reach their full health potential.

Health inequities often reflect disadvantages based on social factors like position and circumstance. Do you want to know the other social determinants of health that cause these disparities? If so, then you need to read our overview.

We're going to explain how to solve and fight health inequities wherever they exist. Read on!

Social Determinants of Health

The US currently allocates a large section of its wealth to tackle health inequities. This number is almost double that of other equivalent nations. Unfortunately, it's not enough.

Staying healthy is not solely influenced by the availability of quality medical care. In fact, some experts suggest that this only accounts for one-fifth of the equation.

The largest contributors that influence inequalities in health are:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Behavioral factors
  • The local area where you live
  • The place you work 

The medical field may pay less attention to these highly influential factors. They are solid predictors of future health none-the-less. There are reasons why cancer and heart disease are more common in some communities.

Sometimes, even within the same community, these rates may differ significantly. This can often be dependent on the demographics of the statistics in question.

Causes of Health Disparities

What is health inequity vs. a health disparity? These two concepts intertwine yet are subtly different in meaning. Disparity implies a difference, and inequity implies an injustice.

For positive health outcomes, everyone needs equal access to essential resources. Serious setbacks like the following can prevent positive growth:

  • A lack of educational opportunities (including those in the correct language)
  • Impoverished neighborhoods
  • Toxic chemicals in the environment

Individuals and communities need the finances to meet their basic needs. They also need safe accommodation in areas free from pollution. These are all key necessities for humans to thrive and stay healthy.

Discrimination and biased policies are often behind the inequities that hold communities back. Health barriers can exist at local, regional, national, and societal levels. For this reason, they are so ingrained and unquestioned that they often go ignored.

Solving Health Inequities

Some communities have a problem with violence. In some cases, the situation can be so bad that residents are afraid to engage in daily life outside of their homes. In others, reliable public transportation may be completely unavailable.

Getting to the heart of the matter and finding the fundamental problem is essential. Local government, businesses, and law enforcement may need to help find a solution. This also includes the residents themselves.

Instead of scratching the surface, it's important to look deeper, to expose the root cause. A violence problem can often stem from isolated youth with no access to employment with good pay.

In many communities, discrimination comes in various forms. Often, it underlies the negative outward manifestations.

Local organizations need to adapt their practices to open up opportunities to all. Government, business, and education centers should all reexamine their processes. Existing and future policies should be carefully examined for direct or indirect discrimination.

No policy should limit opportunity based on unfair bias. This includes discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.

The practice of redlining is a historical example of a racist policy. Mortgage lenders would map off specific neighborhoods in red. The purpose of this was to show where loans should be denied.

Redlining was mostly associated with financial institutions. Medical services and grocery stores have also been kept away from some communities.

The use of redlining and other urban planning practices left many communities deprived. Meanwhile, others were given the resources they needed to thrive.

Fighting Healthcare Inequality

Extending wellness programs to communities or demographics with less access is highly impactful. This will result in increased social capital and improved overall health.

No residents should be experiencing limited or low-quality treatment options. Additionally, removing unfair health inequities can decrease the overall demand for medical interventions.

In certain communities, this is an especially urgent need. That's because these resources are scarce in the first place.

In the medical community, there is usually an awareness of the problem. Despite this, there is often an unwillingness to intervene at a preventative level. Often times, funding is provided to reactive healthcare instead of for resources like health education.

Inequities can be rebalanced by all medical providers without needing to over-stretch resources. This can make a huge difference. Policy changes should enable health providers to commit to these goals. Policies should identify and prevent the factors that cause disease in the first place.

While the involvement of doctors and care staff may be limited, medical providers must be able to intervene. Health professionals can put patients in touch with the services that rebalance inequities.

No one party in the medical system can take full responsibility for reversing health inequities. Instead, it should be a burden that's equally distributed all across the board. This includes insurance companies, public health organizations, as well as the medical staff.

Doctors, Donors, and volunteers have all become involved. They have become activists in the fight against health inequities. What could you do to help communities to reach sustainability and self-sufficiency?

Acknowledging Health Inequities

We've shown that health inequities, and unfair policies or practices, must be changed. No disadvantaged group should be left behind. The consequences are premature death, disease, disability, and a poor quality of life.

Whether you're a medical professional or a concerned global citizen, you can help us. We are a community of activists and volunteers who believe in hope and invest in people. We improve health, provide disease prevention, education, and treatment for the lives we touch.

Donate now to help us fight health inequities.

Elena Burr