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Economic Disparities in Healthcare

Authored by Bowen Fu


In a world where medical advancements seem boundless, it remains a horrifying reality that not all individuals have equal access to healthcare, nor do they experience equitable health outcomes. At the heart of this glaring disparity lies the complex web of economic inequalities that intertwine with healthcare access and outcomes. This article will dive into the diverse issues of economic disparities in healthcare, exploring the impact of income inequalities; it will also investigate the social determinants of health, including income, education, and housing. These determinants serve as critical components in the complex puzzle that are healthcare disparities, demonstrating that healthcare outcomes are influenced by factors that extend beyond just clinical settings.


One of the primary social determinants of health is income. Economic disparities, often rooted in income inequalities, can have a profound impact on health outcomes. Studies have consistently shown that individuals with lower incomes tend to face higher rates of chronic disease, lowered life expectancy, and increased morbidity{1]. Low-income individuals often experience limited access to nutritious food, safe housing, and opportunities for physical activity; moreover, the stress associated with financial instability can contribute to mental health issues [2]. These disparities in income directly affect access to healthcare, which can make or break some people’s lives.


The quality of housing and the neighborhood you’re from are two key determinants of health. Poor housing conditions, overcrowding, and exposure to environmental hazards can all have detrimental effects on both health and mental well-being. Having a safe place to stay and a roof over your head are things that some people take for granted; others who lack such security, are not so fortunate. Additionally, neighborhoods characterized by violence, lack of access to parks and recreational areas, and limited availability of fresh, healthy foods can contribute to poor health outcomes. Violence leads to an increase in the prevalence of injuries, both physical or emotional, and can cause major financial burden for populations exposed to constant violence [6]. Lack of access to parks and recreation centers can also lead to mental tolls on people because nature usually brings a sense of happiness to individuals who are stuck with city views for most of their lives. Lack of healthy foods can also lead to physical health problems in addition to these emotional tolls from one’s environment. In addition, the neighborhood that an individual grows up in ties in closely with their education level, which is another critical determinant of health. 


Education plays a prominent role in the determination of health. Knowledge of the healthcare system and experience in navigating it are topics regularly taught in higher education. However, a lot of people don’t have access to such resources [8]. Individuals with lower levels of education often face barriers when trying to understand health information and make decisions about their well-being, both physical and financial. Limited education can also impact employment opportunities, which in turn affects access to health insurance and healthcare services. In many cases, healthcare is provided through a person’s job, and without these opportunities, getting private insurance from other companies is often too expensive to afford. People who receive limited or low quality education are more likely unable to access reliable healthcare, so if they get sick or experience a major injury, they suffer consequences that could have easily been avoided if our education system was structured more equitably.


Even though the healthcare industry has expanded substantially over the past few years, access to it has seen a huge decrease because of the increasing economic wage gap, the lack of education in many families, and the deteriorating environment around us. If we want to address these social issues, we have to come together to advocate for policies to be implemented. 


Works Cited


  1. Lynch, J. W., et al. (2017). "Income, Income Inequality, and Health: A Causal Review."


  1. Chetty, R., et al. (2016). "The Relationship Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States."


  1. Adler, N. E., et al. (2020). "The Health-Wealth Paradox: Rethinking the Relationship between Health and Socioeconomic Status."


  1. House, J. S., et al. (2002). "Income, Wealth, and Health."


  1. Braveman, P., & Gottlieb, L. (2014). "The Social Determinants of Health: Coming of Age."


  1. Ayanian, J. Z., et al. (2000). "The Consequences of Uninsurance for the Health of the Non-Elderly Adult Population."


  1. Smedley, B. D., et al. (2003). "Racial and Ethnic Disparities in US Health Care: A Chartbook."


  1. World Health Organization. (2008). "Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health."

  2. World Health Organization & World Bank. (2018). "Universal Health Coverage: An Affordable Dream."

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