Disparities in Healthcare – SAMPLE PAPER
A health disparity can be described as being apparent in a situation where health outcomes manifest to a lesser or greater extent between and among populations. The expression “health disparity” could also be defined more technically as specific differences in health outcomes and care that are associated intricately with various social determinants of health (Wang and Geng 282). Health disparities are especially clear in the two leading causes of death in the United States, namely, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) (Purnell et al. 1410). In CVD, for instance, African Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanics experience higher morbidity and mortality rates and poorer health outcomes relative to the general population (Purnell et al. 1410). Herein, the impact of socioeconomic and environmental factors on health disparities and status and the indications of research regarding feasible interventions for reducing the disparities’ gap are discussed.
Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Health
The impact of socioeconomic status on health has been the study of robust and extensive exploration through both scholarly and practitioner efforts. The results of this robust body of extant empirical research literature indicate that, viewed through the lens of the social determinants of health, socioeconomic status determines health status through three primary pathways, namely environmental exposure, health care, and health behavior (Wang and Geng 285). Importantly, whether assessed through differences in education, income, or occupation, socioeconomic factors constitute the most fundamental driver of health disparities in the United States and elsewhere (Wang and Geng 286). Research undertaken in the context of the United States demonstrates, notably, a positive and statistically significant correlation between socioeconomic factors and health lifestyle assessed based on behavioral risk factors (Wang and Geng 281-282). The evidence indicates that individuals with lower socioeconomic status have a higher exposure to and are more likely to display behavioral risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet, which, in turn, account for nearly 40% of deaths in the US (Wang and Geng 282). A lower socioeconomic status also reduces access to quality healthcare while increasing environmental exposures linked to adverse health status and outcomes.
Effects of Environmental Factors on Health
As indicated above, specific environmental exposures, underpinned by various social determinants of health such as socioeconomic status, are directly linked to health disparities and adverse health status and outcomes. The two most important forces acting on the environment to contribute to differences in individual and health differences, in this regard, are linked to physical and social environmental exposures (Wang and Geng 286). Specifically, health status varies based on the physical environments in which individuals and populations work and live, whereby, for instance, exposure to damaging environmental agents like industrial waste and asbestos result in adverse health outcomes for the concerned populations. The quality of individuals’ social environment is also significant in determining health status whereby, for example, inadequate engagement in social networks and isolation constitute reliable predictors of poorer health status.
Reducing Health Disparities Gap and Conclusion
A robust body of literature presently explores the potential methods and interventions to eliminate healthcare disparities and overall health. A review of said literature indicates the existence of four overarching and evidence-based types of interventions, namely those that target the factors influencing and driving disparities at the individual patient level, the social support level of family and friends, the level of organizational and care provider factors, and the level of community and policy-related factors (Purnell et al. 1411). Overall, interventions that target the factors and drivers associated with health disparities at multiple of the four levels mentioned above are likely to be more effective than those that target only a single level of factors.
Wang, Jian, and Liuna Geng. “Effects of Socioeconomic Status On Physical and Psychological Health: Lifestyle as A Mediator.” International journal of environmental research and public health, vol. 16, no. 2 (2019), pp. 281-289. doi:10.3390/ijerph16020281
Disparities in Healthcare – SAMPLE PAPER