Like many things in this modern world, it all comes down to one thing. Money.
Health inequity is the idea that living a healthier life is not truly accessible for certain populations. Those being people who are the least wealthiest: The Working and Lower-Middle Class. Immigrants with little income opportunities. The Homeless. Etc.
These groups are often left behind in society, and this has a terrible effect on their health and wellbeing. Very much like the idea that it is more expensive to be poor, those who need the most help to be healthier are less able to access health and wellbeing support. But surely health can’t be that expensive, right?
To reach our optimal health, we have to personally invest in it. From the foods that we buy, to the services we pay for, being at a peak condition costs money. Plain and simple.
While there are steps that everyone can take to live healthier, that are free or very inexpensive, to simply tell people to just do that often ignores a chain of factors, which puts certain people below others. Those being…
- That those who are born into poorer households have less resources to develop properly
- That those children are less likely to do well in school, and not attain as a high of an eduction as their peers
- That because of a poorer education, are less likely to know how to support themselves (in all aspects)
- That those now young adults have fewer job prospects, and so will earn less money and/or have to rely on benefits
- That the increased stress of financial struggles, and the inevitable development of health issues, will lead to a greater likelihood of engaging in unhealthy habits
- As adults, that they are less likely to engage in safer sex practices, eventually leading to supporting children in a home that would not give them the best opportunities.
And thus the cycle continues.
So what can be done?
Aside from systemic changes in national policy, about how we distribute wealth and support those most in need, I don’t think there is much that can be done. However, a message to all health professionals out there…
When giving advice and support to those needing it most, keep in mind the context of their daily living. Do not recommend that they give themselves time off to destress, if they are having to work long hours just to survive. Do not recommend that they purchase a gym membership, if they can barely afford to put food on the table for themselves and their family.
Hopefully my point has been made. Being aware of health inequity is something we all need to face as a society. But in the mean time, show compassion for people who are struggling the most. They need it more than you might think.
What do you think? Do you believe that health inequity is a real issue? How would you suggest we tackle it? Let me know in the comments below!