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Health Inequities and Their Systemic Roots

By HERWriter
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Political Issues related image Photo: Getty Images

This past week I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to attend the Virginia Public Health Association’s Conference on Health Equity. The conference was held in Richmond, Virginia’s capitol, and welcomed people from around the state who were interested in learning more about inequalities in our health care systems, health outcomes and policy priorities.

The main point made at this conference was that inequities in health outcomes are caused by more than just individual behaviors or biological predisposition. Instead, quality of health can be attributed to comprehensive and systemic factors.

Like what? Think big: infrastructure, geography, education, language. Surprise, surprise -- our nation’s system is currently designed to disenfranchise, dis-empower and disregard our most vulnerable populations’ needs when it comes to wellness.

Let me paint a picture to better illustrate this idea:

Like most of the people in his neighborhood, Mark is a working class black man with no insurance coverage. Since the economic downturn, most of the nearby shops are empty storefronts and the nearest grocery store is two bus rides away. The closest sources of food and basic supplies are corner stores and fast food restaurants.

Many people in Mark’s neighborhood were laid off when the economy took a dive, and lack of job opportunity has forced several families into transitional housing or onto the streets. When property values fell and businesses moved away, public services were stretched thin, and the neighborhood school closed. Mark’s three children were forced to commute to a school located further away.

Mark is worried that his children are hanging with the “wrong crowds”, especially as drop-out and crime rates increase in the area. Unfortunately, there are no community centers or after-school programs for his children to attend, meaning they spend a lot of time un-supervised and un-engaged.

Mark’s apartment is often damp and smells of mold, but his landlord is not responsive to service requests. His youngest child has trouble breathing and was once diagnosed with asthma that worsens in the damp apartment.

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EmpowHER Guest

The truth behind this is that so many people deal with this everyday and even the people that don't still come in contact with them some way or another on a daily basis. So disease and illness is constantly being spread whether you have had checkups or not. IT is ashame they way Mark lives. But in actuality many are not better off then him because they do not partake in the preventative measures listed here


October 5, 2011 - 5:37am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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