Privileged Health

The link between privilege and health is proving more and more correlated with inequalities of health access and political failure to protect the public. During the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic, we saw first-hand how privileged and non-privileged nations reacted to the spread. Dr. Paul Farmer, in an interview with Democracy Now!, urged for people to recognize the disparity between low income areas and high income areas. This split between upper and lower privileged individuals has been known as “Structural Violence” where the social structure does not give proper medical access to social areas where modern medicine and medical tactics are unavailable.

In West Africa, their inability to quarantine the population and recognize the social patterns that led to the spread of the virus was an integral part in the spread of the virus (Beaubien, 2015). When there is no acknowledgement of lower health-accessed individuals, there is an increase in the likelihood of a disease spreading. Interestingly, I drew many similarities between The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a book by Anne Fadiman and the current refugee crisis health conditions. In the book, the placement of the Hmong people into refugee camps (and a change in climate) led to a widespread spread of disease. This is also happening with refugees in camps across Europe. WHO identified the spread of these illnesses linked to food and waterborne quality (associated with the lower income quality housing that is provided). What is also important is prevention. Making sure that there is proper hygiene amongst refugee camps in extremely vital to helping ease any spread of disease. Something as simple as providing condoms to refugees in camps helps curbs migrant’s risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (WHO, 2016).

Is there a moral implication to help provide affected communities with any and all resources necessary to prevent unnecessary loss of life? I believe so. Dr. Farmer agrees, urging that since disease isn’t confined by borders, neither should the world’s response to health crisis’s. It is imperative that in the future, the world takes a diseases’ threats as threats against us all. As the world becomes more connected, the spread of disease is not so easily contained. By ensuring that low-income areas of the world are equipped with proper education, disease protocol, and equipment to handle these highly infectious diseases we ensure that the rest of the world is safe. Which, to me, is a beautiful reminder that when we lift up one another, everyone is benefitted as a result.

  1. Beaubien, Jason. “The Changing Face Of West Africa Has Fueled The Ebola Crisis.” NPR. September 05, 2015.
  2. “Migration and Health: Key Issues.” WHO/Europe. 2016.

4 thoughts on “Privileged Health

  1. Hey Lindsey!

    I absolutely loved that you used the word privilege. I think that word is the perfect word to sum up the disparity between the rich and poor. I understand that some have more money because they earn it not like inheritance, but either way the money you have is a privilege that some others, such as the population in Africa, do not have access too.

    Another thing that I found very interesting is your research through WHO. I loved that you found a present day example to support what we are learning about. I think that it is terrible that the drinking water found in refugee camps in a developed continent such as Europe is giving water that is the quality of somewhere with low income. To me, that is astonishing. I think that Europe is a hub for development and industrialization, so I am just confused as to why the refugees would be getting dirty, poor quality water. If it happened in the beginning and then people started getting sick from it, why would they not change that?

    I think the end paragraph that you wrote is the best part of your paper. I think that realizing it is not about the money, it is about what is right. We should want to help one another and make sure no one is getting sick. We should be trying to lift each other up instead of leaving each other wallowing in sickness and filth. If we can help other countries with there health problems, we could prevent worldwide outbreaks and prevent helpless people from dying in those underdeveloped countries.

  2. Hi Lindsey! I loved reading your blog post. I think you summed up pretty well the difference between privileged and non-privileged nations in regards to healthcare systems. Essentially, non-privileged countries are subject to structural violence, as you mentioned, and they are systemically limited when it comes to proper medical resources and knowledge. While this seems completely unfair, it is the unfortunate truth.
    I’m glad you brought up Anne Fadiman’s book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down because I am currently reading it for a class and also made the connection. Refugees are by no means often placed in areas with proper healthcare systems, which can lead to widespread disease, as you mentioned. Ensuring proper hygiene practices seems as though it would be prioritized in the refugee camps. Making it a priority would only greatly benefit the refugees in the camp.
    I like that in your last paragraph you stated “the world take a diseases’ threats as threats against us all.” To me, this was interesting to ponder because it really makes us aware how interconnected this world has become and if one area is affected, we are all affected. It is the responsibility of privileged countries to share their resources and knowledge with the non-privileged countries to ensure our world stays healthy and safe.

  3. Hey Lindsey, I completely agree with you! Healthcare is becoming more and more a privilege for the people who live in poverty. It was really horrible to hear about the white doctors who were immediately given treatment for ebola, while the poor were left to suffer. There is such a large income disparity with between different classes of society. It’s was very frustrating to hear about the doctors who were not treating individuals and just quarantined them instead. When Paul Farmer discussed how the same situation would not happen in the US, it was a sad reality of the structural violence that exists everyday. Doctors here in the US treat patients and have access to many resources that doctors in Africa do not. I definitely agree that other wealthy countries such as the US and Europe should really offer more monetary support and funding to these afflicted countries. We must make it a priority to ourselves to work on keeping infectious diseases at bay. These diseases really do affect all of us since they can spread quickly. This can cause chaos and outbreaks in developed countries as well. Therefore, I definitely feel that the management of infectious disease should be made a top priority as it’s extremely crucial to well-being.

  4. Hi Lindsay! Your points are true to the common thread of this weeks post. I really relate with your point about how privilege should not relate to healthcare or curing life-threatening diseases, but unfortunately it does. Privilege unfortunately ends up determining many factors that directly affect the quality of life one ends up living, which also includes lifespan. Do I think it’s right? Not at all. Do I think there is anything to do about it? Aside from the world coming together and embracing countries in a way a country hardly embraces itself, I am not sure. I think your point is very true though how the privilege of living in the United States benefits us and really ends up defragmenting others. I agree that life or death matters should not be held in a privilege category. Those measures that would have been taken in another country weren’t taken in Africa because the funding/money, knowledge, and professionals were not there. I think it was a moral blunder for the United States to not have intervene and perform the necessary precautions for Africa. I think it should not be a privilege when dealing with human lives. However, the United States did decide to start taking measures once other countries, like itself, were involved preventative measures were taken.

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