Social Development Commission
As single mother I know recently received medication for high cholesterol. As a primary caregiver for her family, she put herself last as she struggled to pay bills, maintain employment and care for her children. Sadly, this woman may require medication for the rest of her life. Now, at the age of 54, she asks how this came to be. For people in health care, it’s no surprise.
Recent government statistics indicate that this mother (like many readers of this magazine) are 20 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites. African American women are 60 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, as compared to non-Hispanic white women. But health care disparities go beyond race. Many rural communities share the same grim health statistics. Why? The answer is complex but we can start with the following:
One: Access to health care in communities experiencing poverty.
Let’s be honest. If an overwhelmed mother has to commute to a clinic an hour from her home, she’s more likely to put it off. This means people won’t get treated for life-threatening conditions that can be corrected if caught early.
Many of these health care systems were created to take care of the poor. However, left unchecked, they stray away from their mission and abandon our neediest communities. They move resources to wealthier communities where insured customers pay higher fees for service. This model is broken and needs to be fixed.
Two: Management and employees don’t reflect diverse communities
Health care systems can’t help patients if they don’t have a relationship with them. Many African Americans don’t trust health care employees as memory of the horrific Tuskegee Syphilis Study lingers generations later.
Hospitals need diverse staffs that understand the culture, behaviors and root causes that lead to disease in affected communities. Health care workers must be more than window dressing. They must be empowered to challenge the norms affecting how we deliver care to all communities regardless of their ability to pay.
Three: Hospitals today need to do what they do best – address issues that directly impact health.
Healthy food prevents illness. So where there are food deserts, there are opportunities for our health care providers to provide solutions.
This has been a summer filled with protest. Just as protesters hold police departments accountable for their actions, we must ensure that health care systems invest in our communities. We must end all systemic racism that creates inequality. Health care systems must be included.
Source: CDC— Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging. Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions | greategood.berkeley.edu