As healthcare administrations worldwide continue to transition toward value-based physician reimbursement models, the attention on the significance of social determinants of health and disease is becoming more focused.
The social determinants of health are the societal and economic circumstances that impact individual and group differences in health status. They are the health-promoting factors found in one’s living and working conditions. Those include requirements essential in the modern healthcare delivery model for achieving health equity, such as the distribution of income, wealth, influence, and power, rather than individual risk factors, wealth, energy, and prestige.
“Health equity” is rather vague and often made on moral grounds. Nonetheless, there seems to be a common consensus that Health equity is merely about all individuals having a reasonable opportunity to be as healthy as conceivable. That compels eliminating impediments to health. Health equity must eliminate poverty, discrimination, and their consequences.
Today We are inclined to scrutinize corporations’ equity by examining balance sheets and income statements. But such capability is overblown when it comes to our healthcare system.
The Biden Administration, too, has recently focused on “health equity.” The appeal to fairness is often made on moral grounds, challenging the nation to live up to its egalitarian objectives.
Biological and structural determinants define actual health and health equity. Structural determinants like political, legal, economic, and social norms and institutional processes also shape the distribution of power and resources. Those are defined by the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, play and age.
Actions such as discrimination, stereotyping, and prejudice often jeopardizes People’s living conditions. Discriminatory practices are usually embedded in institutional and systems processes, leading to under-represented groups in decision-making at all levels or underserved.
The moral arguments to promote health equity exist, but advancing progress toward health equity could elicit economic, national security, and other objectives. The premise is that social mobility, the opportunity to succeed with hard work, and the opportunity to achieve prosperity are fundamental in every society.
Studies demonstrate that worsening social, economic, and environmental factors affect health profoundly, compromising the opportunity for all. But then again, health equity cannot pertain only to health and exclusivity. It encompasses the more significant subject of impartiality in social provisions, including economic distributions, paying apt courtesy to the role of health in human survival and sovereignty.
Health equity is not just about the distribution of health, not to mention the even narrower focus on the distribution of healthcare. Indeed, health equity consideration has a vast stretch and bearing.
A significant recognition of health discrepancies began nearly two decades ago with two Surgeon General’s reports published in the early 2000s. It documented disparities in tobacco use and access to mental health care by race and ethnicity.
Despite its recognition and documentation and overall improvements in population health over time, disparities have persisted. In some cases, it has even widened. For instance, The Affordable Care Act’s expansions steered to vast gains in coverage across groups. Despite these gains, ethnic populations and low-income individuals in the US remained at increased risk of being uninsured, contributing to more significant barriers to accessing healthcare.
Some believe health equity must be a strategic priority. These organizations recognize that health equity must be a strategic prerogative and that their leadership teams must champion such a strategy. We will examine examples of specific organizations in the next section.
Others believe in achieving health equity; we must value everyone’s physical well-being equally. Nevertheless, that will make diligent efforts to stop needless discrimination in health outcomes and healthcare access. It will take correcting biases.
Reaching health Equity is an immense task that requires grassroots efforts at the individual, community, and national levels.
Then, Can we attain Health Equity?
While it is prudent to observe health equity as a humane deed, it would be unfair to endorse it equally as a business means. Today health equity capitalizes on corporate spreadsheets. Yet, the central issue is that not all have parallelly aligned strategic and tactical missions.
We all perceive the rhetoric often publicized through political slogans and philanthropic missions at every corner of the mass media. But none has been successful in creating health equity.
Equity is not about resources for a specific group of people that fit a particular profile. But it is about creating options and opportunities for everyone, irrespective of their profile. It is about creating a collaborative environment where everyone can collaborate and not collude.