by Hank Dart
While tragic events can bring the issue of inequality to the headlines every once in a while, it’s more often a problem that lives under the radar of most people. Yet, as the gaps between rich and poor continue to grow wider and wider and health care coverage remains an important issue, there’s no better time to take a deeper look at the important links that exist between race, class and health.
Looking outside of race, factors like income and education level – so called socioeconomic factors – also have a large influence on health: so much so that many in the health field call poverty itself a carcinogen. Rates of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are also higher in those with lower income and less education.
Why do these disparities exist? The simple answer is that there are a lot of different reasons. Unequal access to quality health care and screening services is one very important one. But there are other important issues around education, language, and living/work environments—to name just three. Tied together with such things, race and income are also often linked to important health risk factors like smoking, being less active and being overweight.
Clearly, the issue of health disparities is very complex and won’t be solved overnight. But, the situation is far from hopeless. Awareness of the issue is on the rise, and state and local communities are starting to take concrete steps to fix the problem—whether its offering universal health insurance or helping bring better food choices to poor neighborhoods.