Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Shocking Disparities in Health Care
A healthcare disparity, according to Healthy People 2020, is “a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage.” These disparities greatly affect groups of people who have routinely experienced more obstacles in health care based on many factors, such as race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomics, age, disability, gender, sexuality, geographic location, or anything that sets someone apart from someone else.
Further, the CDC claims that disparities are preventable differences in health care commonly experienced in socially disadvantaged populations. If they are preventable, why are they still happening, and what are the exact disparities? What can be done to remedy the situation?
The Factors Behind Disparities
Health outcomes, even when care is given equally, varies due to a range of factors: underlying genetics, social and environmental factors, health behaviors, and access to health care. These are only the basics in discrepancies.
Social issues, such as racism, also play a large part. In fact, healthcare disparities are often the result of opinions on race and ethnicity, but they still occur in many different dimensions, such as:
- Socioeconomic status
- Citizenship status
- Disability status
- Sexual identity or orientation
When considering age, research has proven that disparities also occur over a lifetime, from birth, to middle age, to old age. Basically, anything that makes a patient different from a caregiver has been cited as a reason for health disparities.
Current Status of Disparities
Before the COVID19 pandemic, underserved groups, such as people of color, had already faced numerous longstanding health disparities. Larger recognition of this issue began two decades earlier, with two Surgeon General’s reports discussing disparities in access to mental health care and tobacco use by ethnicity and race. While changes were made and the studies had some effects, other disparities have not only persisted, but have grown. Studies completed before the pandemic proved that people of color fared worse than whites in the following:
- Infant mortality
- Prevalence of chronic conditions
- Pregnancy-related deaths
- Overall physical and mental health status
Further, low-income patients report lower health status than those with money, while the LGBTQ+ community has experienced health challenges at increased rates.
Addressing the Issues
It’s apparent that these are large issues in healthcare. The COVID19 pandemic highlighted these issues when a disproportionate amount of people of color began suffering more than their white counterparts. The Federal government has taken notice, with several executive orders focusing on advancing health equity. Following suit, the NIH launched the UNITE Initiative to face inequities in research. The CDC declared racism a serious threat in 2021, promising to lead efforts in confronting systems and existing policies that resulted in injustices.
This is only the beginning; other agencies at different legislative levels are expected to follow. Policies will be reviewed, and changes will be made to ensure a more equitable healthcare system for all.
The COVID19 pandemic is tough on all of us. However, it has brought out a longstanding issue in healthcare – serious disparities. While the issue has been recognized for decades, it is finally getting necessary legislative attention. In the future, the American healthcare system will enjoy a healthcare system full of equity.
At Vancouver Home Health Care Agency, Caring and Compassion is our Business.