Health inequities or disparities may seem extinct, but the truth is they exist. Inequity in the healthcare systems refers to the systematic differences in the health status of different population fragments. The World Health Organization has always pinpointed these inequities, which were in the national spotlight for years. Health inequity is not a single industry issue. It is a multiple-industry issue with a significant impact on a general population’s social, economic, and health conditions. A 2018 study reports that racial health disparities alone resulted in costing $337 billion to health insurers from 2009 to 2018. Health Equity
Analyzing it from a layman’s perspective, we can vividly tell the differences between the healthcare facilities available in rural and urban areas. One might come up with an excuse that rural areas lack modern facilities but still are parts of the same country. The local and state government can provide the same finances and facilities, especially to areas in dire need of proper healthcare facilities or resources. For the past few years, the efforts to reduce the inequity has sped up, and many health organizations have joined hand to reverse the situation.
What is health equity, and why is it important?
One might wonder how we would know if we have achieved health equity or not. The term health equity highlights the principle of everyone in a given population having equal opportunities to attain full health potential. It also focuses on the availability of options free of any ethical, racial, or socioeconomic differences among people and society. Health organizations have made health equity a priority by initiating efforts to improve healthcare facilities’ availability and access regardless of any social barrier. Health equity in a country highlights that the citizens can enjoy an equal and fair chance of health and well-being. If you wish to understand how socioeconomic differences create inequities, consider enrolling in a masters in public health online degree and learn at your own pace.
Why is health equity essential? Simple; good health is a fundamental human right and should be accessible to everyone regardless of their gender, race, or any other socioeconomic determinant. Equal distribution of good healthcare facilities ensures that a community thrives collectively. While we all play our roles in a country’s economic development in small parts, the combined impact is substantial. Suppose a specific subset of the population is repeatedly denied access to adequate healthcare facilities. In that case, the effect can have a snowball effect on the entire economy.
With that said, here are some aspects that can help develop plans to achieve health equity.
- Identifying the issues
Everything has a reason or a cause. When we feel sick, we rush to the hospital to determine the reason or cause of our discomfort. Health inequity stems from different issues, and it may have its roots embedded somewhere in our societal systems. People with a broad understanding of healthcare issues can highlight the root cause of health inequities prevalent in society. Their expertise and knowledge can assess inadequate healthcare facilities, their impact on the people, and how it will unfold in the long run.
Research shows that clinicians have their biases against a particular race or ethnicities and, in some cases, gender. Many studies undermine the fact that a patient’s race or ethnicity can influence a physician’s attitude towards the patient and their clinical decision-making. Moreover, healthcare services and insurance may not always be affordable/accessible to everyone. It may lead to further inequities as good health is a fundamental human right, and no one should be deprived of it just because they can’t pay.
We cannot treat a disease accurately without knowing the reason or underlying cause of the condition. Similarly, making health equity a priority requires a detailed understanding of the issues that make up for the existing inequities to develop a plan reducing the chances of its existence.
- Creating a leader-driven approach
Overcoming these years’ long inequities is not a feat that can be accomplished overnight. However, we can always follow the better late than never approach. Leadership in a country or an organization has a significant impact and influence on the decision-making processes. Creating a leader-driven approach may sound easy, but the senior management of the concerned organization shall promptly ensure the development of a plan and its execution. Identifying the causes of inequities will only help if the plan we develop is functional instead of resting in the documents. Leadership can help in facilitating the policymaking process, focusing on bringing health equity throughout the country.
Creating a leader-driven approach will let a healthcare or government organization understand that opting for health equity is not charity but a long-term goal. Employees tend to follow leaders’ examples, which will eventually lead to the success of health equity plans.
- Including ideas supporting equity
Tackling health equity-related disparities with proven interventions will ease the strategy implementations. Healthcare organizations can adopt new measures to screen for non-medical factors affecting the health of the general population. Most of the health disparities are resulting from the differences based on race and socioeconomic status. Developing a strategy to provide medical assistance to low-income or non-English speaking patients can significantly reduce inequities existing within the healthcare system.
- Addressing the socioeconomic determinants
Any organization or a local government institute intending to overcome the disparities must identify the factors involved. Socioeconomic status is one of the most common driving factors behind the health disparities. Seeking medical treatment in the US can make you go bankrupt if you do not have any health insurance plan to cover your bills. The jobless to employment ratio in the US is pretty high, and those working on daily wages can barely afford a health insurance plan. It is essential to have a strategy focused on identifying the people facing disparities and devising actions to bridge the gaps.
- Eliminating institutional racism
Institutional racism is one of the leading factors when it comes to addressing disparities. Whether overt or implicit, it has been contributing to the poor health of many people. Structures and policies perpetuating the race-based advantages in healthcare have left the less privileged starving for the accessibility of healthcare. Making a joint effort to control racism can help overcome the disparities existing within an organization and the society on the whole.
Health equity is one of the fundamental rights of every human being. It is high time that organizations and communities join hands to address the health disparities existing in their communities. In 2004, a coalition of different organizations to overcome the disparities resulted in a 75% reduction in uninsured residents. Imagine the impact 17 years later, i.e., today, if healthcare organizations come forward with plans that can change the system and promote equity regardless of any social barrier.