In Sickness and In Wealth

I only got a few of the questions right on the Health Equity Quiz! I thought it presented some very interesting statistics. The most surprising to me was that life expectancy in the U.S. is ranked only 29th in the world, and yet the U.S. spends more than twice the average per person of other industrialized countries. Most of the statistics in the quiz did not reflect well on the state of health and healthcare in the U.S.

I chose the “In Sickness and in Wealth” case study. The video shows the lives of four families with very different socioeconomic statuses in parts of Louisville, Kentucky. As we see throughout the video, the family with the highest socioeconomic status also is able to maintain the highest level of health; they have time to exercise, take vacations, and are able to eat well. They also have the highest life expectancy. As the video starts to show families with lower and lower socioeconomic status, we see life expectancy decrease. These families tend to not have the time or resources to make choices to eat well or exercise frequently. Additionally, the video describes a study about chronic stress and corresponding high cortisol levels, which could contribute to poorer health and lower life expectancy. In summary, the video shows us that our socioeconomic class can shape our opportunities and resources for good health.

Politics, economics, environment, culture, biology, and individual choices are all factors that interact to impact health and illness. Economics plays a role because if you have the financial resources to seek out medical assistance when you’re ill, you’re more likely to be able to afford prescription medicine and regain your health. Additionally, you’ll be able to take preventative measures for your health, such as eating well and exercising.  Politics and policy-making can help create a better environment to live in, but it can also create a poorer living environment as well. Living in an unhealthy environment reduces a person’s opportunities for good health, because they are constantly surrounded by factors such as poor air quality or little access to healthy foods. Our biology and our genes are a basic starting point for our health, and a family history of certain diseases may mean we are more likely to have them ourselves, especially if the environmental conditions do not allow for preventative medicine. Lastly, culture and individual choices have a huge impact on health and illness. For instance, different cultures have vastly different definitions of what constitutes a disease and how it is treated. If a person’s own cultural context does not correspond with that of the doctor treating him or her, they may not receive the treatment they need or desire to prevent the spread of disease. Despite our individual environments and biology, we all have the opportunity to make decisions that have a positive impact on our health, such as exercising.

2 thoughts on “In Sickness and In Wealth

  1. Well it seems like the problem of economic disparity makes the pickings slim when it comes to nearly anything for those of low SES. I think that some people need to reconsider their personal budgets and spend a higher percentage of their finances for food rather than entertainment. I understand that some people can barely afford food let alone entertainment but there are those who would rather spend a wad of greenbacks on the latest Apple product than organic groceries or just some plain ole` veggies and then wonder why they aren’t feeling healthy. As for those who rely on welfare or food assistance to feed their families, their situation is very unfortunate. Food assistance does not always cover high quality foods but those laden with refined sugars and saturated or trans fats. The government food assistance program ought to provide healthy alternatives. I also think that food products should be regulated better. Artificial dyes and ingredients have been linked to all sorts of conditions but remain in our food supply non-the less. Everyone; healthcare practitioners, the government and lay persons have responsibilities to our healthcare system and our Nation’s health; it seems like many have forgotten what it means to be a citizen and are lost in consumption. My solution asks people to care about others, even those they do not know which is difficult for many people. So there may not be unanimous support for social programs that I insist on upgrading.

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