Understanding the Lack of Health Equity

Is there a disparity in how COVID-19 adversely affects racial and ethnic minorities? An overused phrase since the surge of this health crisis, “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” In a global pandemic where even the rich are not spared, we forget many racial and ethnic minority groups suffer worse…the increased risk of catching the disease, and dying from COVID-19. 

The clamor isn’t for health equality , but health equity. Equity acknowledges each person experiences different circumstances, needs, and privileges. Equality is blindly conferring everyone the same resources and solutions all-around.

At first glance, we think that it’s our health that determines how we live, perform in work, play, and practice religion or faith. However, depending on your socio-economic status, it’s the other way around.

Social Determinants of Health
It’s our living circumstances, working conditions, learning environment, and religion that determines our health. They are the non-medical factors. These conditions are what we call social determinants of health. It reflects systemic influence in daily life conditions.
For example, poverty in the daily makes health access even harder.

Poverty is one circle. Inside the circle is a smaller circle. Let’s say racism and discrimination in some impoverished groups. Racism and discrimination and the attendant stress that comes along with it.

Some of the Key Topic Areas

  • Neighborhood and Physical Environment
  • Health & Healthcare
  • Occupation and Work Conditions

There are more than  five but we’ll focus on the three, just mentioned.

  • Neighborhood and Material Environment

According to the World Health Organization, people from racial and ethnic minority groups are inordinately affected by struggles in finding affordable and quality housing, basic amenities, and good physical environment. 

Especially in every third-world or more current, positive term “developing” nations, in every location, we find infuriating neighbors who would gather round to talk about the newcomer in the village, particularly of different racial origin.

In a book published in the National Academies Press and written by Douglas Massey, there’s a tight connection between a group’s spatial placement and its socio-economic security. An uneven distribution of resources, safer streets, higher home values, and more caring peer environments only exist in some neighborhoods.

There isn’t much of a choice for some racial and ethnic immigrants from Black-dominated regions to the West. Housing options are limited so racial and ethnic minority groups stick together in noisy slums, and lack access to dependable transportation because of poor residential planning. 

How does this relate to COVID-19?

COVID-19 and other infections become more pronounced and acute, when acquired. These poor conditions also affect food consumption and security. Racial and ethnic minority groups don’t get access to cheap, nutritious foods. Well, since they follow the herd with their same circumstances, there might be access to cheap, healthy food but usually left-overs and rotten ones. Environmental pollution and man-made accidents happen because of crowded and one-household situations in certain cultures. Fire, floods, that cause injuries and diseases and unintentional stealing because of lack of sustenance contribute to heightened risks for serious COVID-19 illness. Adults reaching retirement age most likely experience comorbidities, so COVID-19 makes it worse.

  • Health and Healthcare

People from racial and ethnic minority groups are inordinately affected by lack of access to quality health care, health insurance, and culturally responsive health care. Studies show that health and health care come second to neighborhood and physical environment or lifestyle preferences in improving health. What health maintenance and lifestyle choice are you talking about when you don’t even have a roof over your head or food on the table? 

How does this affect COVID-19 patients?

Distrust in health policies and healthcare institutions. The government should be accountable , but isn’t always accountable. Such barriers raise risks for unfortunate health and health outcomes by curbing health promotion which factors not only individual behavior but also a broad scope of social and environmental interventions.

  • Occupation and Job Conditions

People from racial and ethnic minority groups are inordinately represented in vital work environments. Healthcare facilities, mills, food plants, markets, and public transportation. Cheap labor is resorted to minimize costs and expenses. Racial and ethnic minority groups do the “dirty work” that in some cultures, it’s not considered dignified.

“Work affords dignity. Yet some jobs are a fount of stigma, too.”

How do these conditions lead to more exposure to COVID-19?

Since these job types necessitate repeated or direct contact with the public or other workers, and includes work that cannot be performed in the comfort and safety from home. Some don’t even get to call their resettlement sites homes. Low compensation, possible little to none sick day leaves or benefits. People who work in these work environments have more chances to be exposed to COVID-19.

What progress has been attained, moving forward?

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-NET displays the age-adjusted hospitalization rates and apportionment of characteristics among people ministered to and treated for underlying medical conditions and outcomes, by race and ethnicity can be used to recognize racial and ethnic inequities, inform probable strategies to reduce disparities and to gradually fill the lack of health equity. COVID-NET encompasses 99 countries in the 14 states of the USA joining in the Emerging Infections Program and the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Project. Representing around 10% of the American population.
  • April is National Minority Health Month and this 2022, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) and its enablers and collaborators puts emphasis on the essential role civil society, (all) sectors, and organizations can play in lessening health disparities. The chosen theme “Give Your Community a Boost encapsulates the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters as well as the ‘inclusivity’ aspect. Particularly, the cause aims for the health promotion of American Indian/Alaska Native communities.