Health Equity is a topic that has been around for quite some time now, yet we as a nation are still trying to figure out how we can live in a world that is more equitable. Some of you may recall a time when you were unable to access healthcare due to your race, sex, gender identity, immigration status, socioeconomic status, disabilities, or other personal attribute. It is highly possible that you have been directly affected by the inequities of healthcare, and you have been victim to an existing healthcare disparity.
As an immigrant, female, and minority, I have experienced health inequities in the past. I have also witnessed health inequity as a professional in the field of Behavior Analysis. I wanted to further explore this topic with you and here are some findings that I would like to share:
Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)
SDOH are circumstantial and environmental conditions that affect health, quality of life outcomes, risks, and functioning. According to Healthy People 2030, SDOH can be grouped into 5 categories. These categories are: Economic Stability, Education Access and Quality, Health Care Access and Quality, Neighborhood and Built environment, and Social and Community Context.
Why is it important to identify SDOH?
Each category can significantly impact a patient’s ability to access healthcare. If providers are able to identify the SDOH of their patient, they may be able to help bridge the gaps and promote better health equity.
Children’s Environmental Health
The American Public Health Association (APHA) discusses children’s vulnerability to environmental hazards. According to APHA, minority children are more likely to live in communities where hazardous waste sites are more prevalent. This increases poor health outcomes for minority children when compared to their non-minority peers. The APHA also reported that public school settings with poor conditions are mostly found in low-income communities where children of color live, APHA also reported that poor air quality has been correlated with lower productivity, test scores, and attendance.
Intellectual and Developmental Disability
According to Healthy People 2030, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who live in large institutional settings experience lower quality of life. Institutional settings with smaller number of residents allows more focus and care for each resident. According to the CDC people with disabilities have a higher risk for abuse, injuries, and bullying. These risks may be alleviated by following policies and protocols in place to help individuals with disabilities. However, we still have much work to do as individuals with disabilities still experience healthcare disparities.
Most of you know that I am passionate about my work with children diagnosed with developmental disabilities. The social detriments of health that I listed above cover the topics of minorities, children, and disabilities. This is a common intersectionality or overlapping identities that I encounter in my day-to-day work with the individuals I serve. Understanding how these social determinants interact with each other and create barriers to my patient’s ability to access healthcare is extremely important. My ability as a provider to identify these domains and work to resolve these inequities will be an ongoing process, and I hope to be able to contribute the future of health equity.