Unnatural Causes: In Sickness and In Wealth

We should have great health in America, we are the richest country in the world and we spend the largest percent of our GDP on healthcare. However, the amount of money we spend on healthcare does not equate to the best health outcomes. We rank 30thin life expectancy, fall behind many other countries in number of preventable deaths, and 47 million people in America receive no health care coverage. As a big advocate for universal healthcare, I have always believed that having a national public health insurance program would fix a lot of our problems in the U.S. Universal coverage could be effective in lowering our overall healthcare costs, the number of chronic conditions, etc. Yet, universal health coverage will not eliminate health disparities across social conditions. As exemplified in Great Britain, where everyone has access to healthcare but a social gradient still exists. Social forces are so powerful in shaping health outcomes in communities. As mentioned in class, the outcomes of voting in local elections is immensely important for the funding and resources of locations on a community level. I had understood the importance of voting in presidential elections, but I had not previously realized the impact that voting in local elections might have on health outcomes.

The video also mentioned that economic policy is health policy – when you improve economic circumstances you can improve health. Having adequate financial resources allow individuals to visit the doctor, live in a safe neighborhood, avoid extensive stressors, and afford healthy food. If we were to improve the economic circumstances of the lower-income class, individuals would become healthier and, thus, more productive in our society. A common conservation argument is that people should not be given things that they have not worked for. This may include benefits like free healthcare services, free public housing, and food stamps. Yet, these same individuals who may argue nothing should be handed out for free, expect people living in poverty to simply get a job and climb out of their financial situation, failing to recognize the obstacles created just by their social class. If one cannot afford health insurance for a chronic condition, such as asthma, diabetes, or hypertension, that condition can inhibit them from working. Allowing equal access to healthcare services in the U.S. not only provides individuals with the care that they need and deserve, but it will also produce more effective workers in our society.

There were also several statistics presented throughout the video that really stood out for me. For example, more than have of America households live at $48,000 annual income or below. Growing up in a middle class family and now attending UR, my perception of what constitutes each social class is distorted. As a senior, my friends and I have started applying to accepting jobs for after graduation.  Salary constantly comes up in conversation regarding job opportunities, in which $48,000 would not seem like a lot of money to students at UR. However, this statistic just reminded me that if I were to make $48,000 as my first year out of college I would already be making more than half of American households.

I thought this video did a really good job explaining how social classes have such a large impact on health outcomes. A lot of the material presented really resonated with me, however, I think no one can truly understand the impact of poverty until the see it first hand. We know that poverty exists because we have watched several videos about it, but I think sometimes we fail to remember that poverty does exist right here in our Richmond community.

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One thought on “Unnatural Causes: In Sickness and In Wealth

  1. Your point about distorted social class perceptions in school really resonated with me. Growing up, I was incredibly aware of my family’s financial status which was below the federal poverty guideline. Going to classes where I hear my classmates often make ignorant comments about economic status can be difficult. Even more important, I know that I still hold an incredible amount of privilege as someone who can attend the University of Richmond. That makes me think about all the people who not only lack economic privilege, but also access to education. I agree that the United States should have better healthcare policy as such a wealthy nation and frankly, it is frightening to consider that our nation might be progressing backward.

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