Not Just a Paycheck

I only got 5/10 on the Health Equity Quiz and I was surprised by many of the statistics.  I think one of the reasons I did so terribly is because I am from Canada, and I haven’t had a ton of exposure to the American health care system.  We have a dramatically different health care system in Canada, so I’m always surprised by the things I learn about American health care. I find it so surprising that per person, US spends more than twice what most industrialized countries spend on health care, especially considering that most people pay more for health care and get less health care than they do in other industrialized countries.  I also found it surprising that Latino immigrants have the best health when they arrive, but that their health declines quickly over the next few years.  It makes sense because many Latino immigrants often lack wealth and are lower on the economic ladder, which makes it more difficult to access and afford healthcare.  Other socioeconomic factors such as income and education would most likely contribute to the decline of their health advantage as well.

Not Just a Paycheck explains the affect that layoffs, due to the closure of manufacturing plants, have on American health.  The case study takes place in western Michigan and discusses the closure of the Electrolux plant in Greenville, MI.  The company relocated to Juarez, Mexico to find cheaper labour as a result of the pressures from the stock market and the competitive environment.  The relocation resulted in an increase of 81 million dollars a year to the corporate bottom line – good news for the shareholders, but bad news for the American workers as money goes to those at the top of the pay scale, not the workers. The increase of money going to the corporate bottom line is a key factor contributing to the increase the disparity and inequality between the wealthy and the poor. In the US, health is dependent on wealth and income, with the higher the economic grade, the better the health and vice versa. When Electrolux relocated, 2700 people were laid off, resulting in the loss of their good wages and their union.  Many of the people who were laid off cannot find any work and are now living day-to-day off of unemployment benefits and social welfare. The lack of autonomy and job security are contributing factors leading to an increase in health issues in the unemployed.  In the US, unemployment has consequences on the whole community and results in an overall decrease in health. Those who lost their jobs experienced an increase in anxiety, depression, fear of losing their homes, etc.,which results in a decrease in health. The case study also looked at the closure of an Electrolux plant in Sweden where 80% of workers are protected by unions.  When the plant closed, the government and the union pressured Electrolux to make restitution to the workers and the community.  The company ended up offering 3 million dollars to stimulate the growth of new businesses, while the workers and community in Greenville, MI received nothing.  Further, the Swedish people had no fear of losing their homes or healthcare, because Sweden provides economic security to all of their citizens.  The Swedish people willingly pay more taxes in order to be guaranteed a college education, 5 week paid vacation, 16 weeks paid leave to new parents, unemployment benefits (80% of salary) and healthcare.  These factors allow healthcare in Sweden to be independent of wealth or income, resulting in a life expectancy an average of 3 years longer than in the US.

Many non-genetic factors contribute to these health disparities.  I think one of the most notable is the inequality in wealth. The higher the economic grade, the better the health and the lower the economic grade, the higher the mortality. Those at the bottom of the economic ladder stress much more about things such access to health care, finding work, and maintaining their homes. Unemployment leads to an increase in cardiovascular issues, suicide, accidents, and excess death. Other socioeconomic factors such as income and wealth are also non-genetic factors contributing to these health disparities.  One of the major consequences of becoming unemployed is the lack of income.  When the people were not wealthy to begin with, this can have severe consequences.  Often people stop being able to afford their medication, and one of the first medications to be stopped are anti-depressants.  This often leads to a downward spiral of health.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Krystn Hartner says:

    This is an interesting case study relating the effects of losing your job to health. Seeing how money depicts our health is quite shocking, but I do believe that the government could help out more with this problem. Overall I think that the main way to solve this is politically. The government should try and put limits on the company’s power to move to a different country. It seems that nowadays everything is getting made in China and if the government had more discipline they could contain the movements. I also think that the government could do better helping people who lose their jobs. In this case it showed that these people depended on this money coming in and that eventually they will run out of all their unemployment funds. If the government gave more money to the people who are making an effort at getting another job instead of giving food stamps to the people driving Mercedes then I believe this could be a huge help to the overall problem. I fully believe the government should be responsible for solving this health disparity, but locals and doctors could contribute as well. If we all work together than it could get done a lot quicker.

  2. Megan Bergeron says:

    I think that the answer to this health problem is political (as Krystn said) as well as economical. I agree that the government should put limits on a company’s ability to relocate so easily, and should offer more help to those who have lost their jobs. With government intervention less money would leave the United States, and Americans would be happier and healthier. I think an economical solution would also help the community of Greenville. When a large plant closes a whole community can be affected. Economic stimulation would allow this community to recover from money lost, and the health issues caused by the closing of the Electrolux plant. I think that the government along with locals are responsible for economic stimulation. I think that a joint effort would result in a success for the community. As a result of unemployment, people obviously are not making an income. As described in the above post, this leads to health and mental issues. The lack of income can cause a variety of health issues from depression to weight gain. With a lack of income people are forced to conserve money. This means that people are not going to spend money on more expensive food (typically the fresh, healthy options). This could lead to weight gain which can lead to other more serious health issues.

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