Health equity and health disparity have contrasting definitions, however, both are important to know to understand how to combat a big concern in the health field. Health equity is the “social justice in health (i.e., no one is denied the possibility to be healthy for belonging to a group that has historically been economically/socially disadvantaged).” (Braveman et. al, 2014) On the other hand, health disparity is “a health difference that is closely linked with a social, economic, or environmental disadvantage.” (Healthy People 2020) The area of public health has long been working hard to eliminate the injustices that health disparities contribute in. The health of a person is not only about receiving medical treatments but it also circulates within the areas of housing, the lack of employment, and income. Commonly talked about health disparities that impact public health are racial disparities, income levels, education, among others. (Healthy People 2020)
Health disparities are then said to be enticed by many factors including race/ethnicity and income characteristics. Racism is one of the battles currently being fought to help eliminate health disparities in the U.S as people are not receiving quality health care due to their race. As for example, as opposed to people who are socially constructed as “white non-Hispanic”, minority groups based on their race/ethnicity were said to have poor health compared to the rest of the population. (NIH, 2018) The leading causes of death have been statistically reported as heart disease, cancer, and stroke with an age-adjusted death rate between blacks and whites at 1.3 times greater for the black population than that of the white population. (Kung et., al. 2008) Racial disparities also come into play in the lack of health insurance and health resources provided for minorities. Studies have shown that minorities are more likely to have jobs that do not provide health insurance or the wages to be able to afford insurance, unlike their ‘white non-Hispanic’ counterparts. (Lillie et., al. 2015)
Just as racism, classism is another social determinant contributing to health disparities. The quality of health of an individual varies on the social economic status of that person. The person’s healthcare needs will be met depending if they are able to afford medical services when they become ill, have transportation to go to a clinic or have health insurance to undergo procedures. These social class differences may play a role in setting advantages and disadvantages for each individual. (Braveman et., al. 2003) As for example, a person considered as middle or high class would not have financial problems or trouble paying a medical bill as a low-income person would. Even if the U.S has health insurance, there is a noticeable difference that is reflected among the socioeconomic status of each individual when receiving quality healthcare from those that are able to afford insurance and those that aren’t insured. (Newacheck et., al. 1998) Healthy lifestyles can also depend on the environment of the person if they are brought up in a rich community that provides parks for daily exercise, great education, and supermarkets that provide fresh vegetables and fruits near their home. Such communities are rare in poor communities and therefore, an increase in chronic diseases is prevalent among low-income societies.
Though this is a very challenging obstacle that public health is trying to change, it will take time until we get there. There are several ways that health professionals including research groups can take to implement a change in society against these health disparities and improve health. To set changes, public health workers must start by raising awareness. Many people or health professionals do not realize that they have a bias towards a certain racial group or socioeconomic class. It is not something we do on purpose and we must understand that by beginning to be aware of our own biases towards others. In a broader level, providing workshops to train physicians to acquire the skills to be able to communicate and build a partnership with their patient regardless of income status or ethnicity can help improve the trust of a patient. (Nelson et., al. 2002) Additionally, educating patients to feel empowered as they seek help when it is needed. (APHA, 2015)