Healthcare Disparities in the United States
In the United States, many health disparities exist among the population of race, ethnicities, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Health inequalities and disease occurrence are often seen among people with low income and different social backgrounds. Also, people of different genders and sexual orientations can face these issues as well. The factors that contribute to health disparities are lack of access to health care, education, income, nutrition, lifestyle, and environment. Health disparities are seen with unequal access to care and the quality of care given. This paper will discuss each factor causing an increase in healthcare disparities, strategies to help fix the issues, and the problems that can occur with addressing health disparities. The focus of health disparities will primarily be for groups of a different race, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
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First, the history of health care disparities among race and minorities has to do with a long history of slavery in the United States. Even after slavery was abolished, until this day, African Americans still face issues that prevent their communities from thriving. Lack of access to healthcare has occurred for decades within these communities and unfortunately, the factors require a drastic change to see future improvements with access. Also, the history with gender health disparities is a bit similar, women’s equal rights have had a huge momentum within the last few decades. Women and men experience different inequalities as well. The uninsured rate is higher in men, but women face more bias within the healthcare world.
Factors that contribute to healthcare disparities
Second, it is important to examine each of the different factors that contribute to health disparities among the groups. To begin with, African Americans (AA) and minorities such as Hispanics are more likely to live in neighborhoods with low socioeconomic backgrounds along with less collective resources, increased rates of poverty, and a less amount of health care supply Caldwell, Ford, Wallace, Wang, & Takahashi, 2016). Areas that have fewer health care supplies and health professionals corresponds to decrease access to health care along with horrible health outcomes (Caldwell et. al., 2016). Also, income rates are lower in these neighborhoods because many individuals are without decent-paying jobs. Without a respectable job, access to health insurance becomes limited and that can cause a barrier with healthcare.
Next, rural areas in America are also suffering from healthcare inequalities and this demonstrates how an environment can affect healthcare disparities. In a study, it was found that people living in rural environments had poorer health, with rural areas struggling in recruiting and keeping physicians and upholding healthcare services up to par with other urban counterparts (Douthita, Kivac, Dwolatzkya, & Biswas, 2015). Next, the factors of nutrition health contribute to health inequalities. Minorities and African Americans are more prevalent in diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol. Nutrition plays an important factor because many individuals in these two groups are not able to afford proper nutrition or receive the necessary number of daily vitamins. Lack of nutrition health in these communities increases the occurrence of the previously mentioned illnesses followed by a lack of access to healthcare to manage the disease process. To continue, different races/minorities have indicated that they are often concerned about running out of food (Cordner, Wilkie, Wade, Hudgens, Birch, & Gallagher, 2017).
In addition, different sexual and lifestyle choices that can result in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV), Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), pregnancy and contraception use can all factor into health inequalities. To state some relevant facts, young women between the ages of 18 to 24 had the most rate of unintentional pregnancy among all age groups in 2008 to 2011 (Murray Horwitz, Pace, & Ross-Degnan, 2018). Also, people aged 15 to 24 were apart of almost half of the occurrence of STI’s (Murray Horwitz et al., 2018). Black and Hispanic young women have mostly managed of inferior quality on major sexual and reproductive health indicators; they have been shown to have decreased rates of contraception use, increased number of unintentional pregnancy, high rate of HIV/STI testing, and yet a decreased rate of HPV vaccination when compared to their white counterparts (Murray Horwitz et al., 2018). It is a bit alarming that black women have higher rates of STI care and HIV testing but lower rates in other clinical care such as receiving the HPV vaccination and contraception prescription (Murray Horwitz et al., 2018). This healthcare disparity can be due to a possible number of reasons such as poor resource distributions or provider bias, but further research should be conducted to pinpoint the etiology of it to increase clinical care among these groups.
The possibly most important factor contributing to healthcare disparities is education. Education leads to more job opportunities that are related to having health insurance and benefits. Individuals with higher education live longer and lower educated individual’s health is predicated to decline more rapidly with age (Oshio, 2018). It is noted that education allows people to purchase healthier meals, spend more time doing activities outdoors, and spend less time stressing about money. People who are educated are also more likely to understand their disease process, follow directions from their healthcare provider, and advocate for patient rights. Many research studies have indicated that educational level is a key element of health disparities in later life between aspects of health such as death, disability, chronic illnesses, self-care health, and mental health (Oshio, 2018).
Last, strategies and change must be implemented to see a significant difference in health disparities and inequalities. Strategies that should be implemented are monthly community prevention meetings, give training and assistance within the community about healthcare, hosting guest speakers who are health professionals, and conducting health fairs throughout the year (Diehr, Jordan, Price, Jiunn-Jye Sheu, & Dake, 2017). Policy change must occur along with community funding to implement the programs previously listed. For minorities, if the language is a barrier, community access via phone to a proper interpreter that understands medical terminology should be available. Another proposed strategy is that healthcare professionals in a hospital setting take a diversity course to help understand the patient population that they may encounter. Government official offices from a federal and state level ought to join resources to advocate for more policies and practices that would give high-quality teaching in the classrooms, programs, and refining low performing schools (Diehr, et al., 2017). Last, state officials should figure out how to build more hospitals and increase efforts to recruit healthcare providers to rural environments.
Political consequences and conclusion
The political consequences of addressing these strategies are limited resources, manpower, and funding. If one important community aspect receives funding, then another important portion declines and receives fewer funds. Policymakers are limited with what they can and cannot change along with what can be funded. Also, many citizens in the U.S. may not want their tax dollars being spent on certain things to improve health disparities.
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In-conclusion, various health disparities exist in the United States and what has been discussed in this paper is only a snippet of it. Health disparities exist among race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Policies and practices ought to be updated or implemented to aid in increasing access to healthcare and quality of care. People deserve an equal quality of care but to get there, education in certain communities must be refined to incorporate the proper knowledge.
- Caldwell, J. T., Ford, C. L., Wallace, S. P., Wang, M. C., & Takahashi, L. M. (2016). Intersection of living in a rural versus urban area and race/ethnicity in explaining access to health care in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 106(8), 1463–1469. https://doi-org.db26.linccweb.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303212
- Cordner, A., Wilkie, A. A., Wade, T. J., Hudgens, E. E., Birch, R. J., & Gallagher, J. E. (2017). Gender and Racial/Ethnic Disparities: Cumulative screening of health risk indicators in 20-50 year-olds in the United States. Journal of Health Disparities Research & Practice, 10(1), 126–142. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.db26.linccweb.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=122942695&site=ehost-live
- Diehr, A. J., Jordan, T., Price, J., Jiunn-Jye Sheu, & Dake, J. (2017). Assessing the strategies of state offices of minority health to reduce health disparities. American Journal of Health Studies, 32(1), 8–15. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.db26.linccweb.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=124164485&site=ehost-live
- Douthita, N., Kivac, S., Dwolatzkya, T., & Biswas, S. (2015). Exposing some important barriers to health care access in the rural USA. Public Health, 129(6), 611-620. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2015.04.001
- Murray Horwitz, M. E., Pace, L. E., & Ross-Degnan, D. (2018). Trends and disparities in sexual and reproductive health behaviors and service use among young adult women (Aged 18-25 Years) in the United States, 2002-2015. American Journal of Public Health, 108, S336–S343. https://doi-org.db26.linccweb.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304556
- Oshio T. (2018). Widening disparities in health between educational levels and their determinants in later life: evidence from a nine-year cohort study. BMC public health, 18(1), 278. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5181-7
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