There is a long-standing and desperate need for healthcare equity. Giving exemplary care to each patient regardless of location, wealth, situation, race, culture, language, orientation, or any other demographics exemplary care is paramount to the future of healthcare. We can see health inequity in who has access to healthcare, quality of life, and also in the severity and rate of disease, disability, and death.
The CDC says “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain his or her full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.”
Many health factors contribute to health disparities. Genetics, access to healthcare, food deserts, poverty, racism, air quality, little or no support systems, language barriers, and social determinants of health (SDoH) can contribute to health inequity.
Different communities can be negatively affected for different reasons. For example, rural communities may be adversely affected by the time it takes to get to their location, who offers services in their areas, or perhaps even how good cell/wifi connections are in that area.
Other communities can be affected for other reasons. Communities such as people of color, the disabled, the LGBTQIA+, those with lower socioeconomic status, and those who are intellectually disabled are immoderately subjected to conditions that can adversely affect health. Racism, for instance, both interpersonal and structural, negatively affects the mental and physical health of millions of people, preventing them from attaining their highest level of health, and consequently, affecting the health of our nation.
Below is a chart where we can see a breakdown of health coverage, chronic conditions, and mental health, as an easy way to see health inequity.
Hope for Health Equity
We as a society have been working to address health equity in several ways. There are foundations, movements in education, technology, businesses stepping up, and the government have created several initiatives to address ways we can make healthcare balanced and equitable across the board. There are reasons to be hopeful about the future of health equity. Here are just a few examples:
One foundation of note is The Health Equity Initiative is a non-profit organization that is “ dedicated to building a global community that engages across sectors and disciplines to advance health equity.” They have so far engaged with over 30 partners across different sectors and disciplines, trained over 1600 professionals, and built a community of over 14,000 members who are all working towards health equity.
In education we are seeing big movements such as the one at The University of Houston. They have recently rolled out a first-of-its-kind initiative ‘UH Population Health’ to advance health equity. By adding health courses throughout different disciplines and focusing on the education of health equity, UH is ensuring the future waves of employees will not only be able to recognize inequity but more importantly will be able to address it as well.
Technology such as ours at Rainbow Health can help to address health inequity by building our platform with the end-user in mind. Through integrating EHR, having a team of vendors who can serve various communities' needs for clinical and non-clinical needs, and having a full SDoH accounting for all communities and their unique situations.
There have been many examples of businesses dedicating their resources to addressing health equity. Lily for example has committed $5 Million to Direct Relief's Fund for Health Equity. This money is a “Racial Justice Initiative, a robust endeavor to deliver resources like education, health care, economic stability and jobs within the communities where Lilly operates.”
There are many laws and initiatives that have been passed to ensure health equity and there are many more that will come. The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2020 or HEAA is a legislative act that will address health disparity among racial and ethnic minorities, women, the LGBTQIA+ community, rural populations, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities across the United States.
As a country, we are making great strides toward health equity. As we address health inequities there are becoming more and more reasons to hope that health equity is closer than ever before. By responding to inequities from many angles we can continue to close gaps in care.