From lack of access to quality healthcare to excessive prices for life-saving medications such as insulin, there have always been health disparities in the United States. However, as COVID-19 spread across the country, these inequities have become more evident. The disproportionate infection and death rates and unequal access to the vaccine are evidence of the need for large-scale social justice initiatives in healthcare in the United States.
The Need for Universal Health Care
Often, the communities that are most in need of healthcare are the most likely to be cast aside. For example, Black people are 70 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic White people. Despite this increased need for medical care, Black communities are often underserved and have fewer treatment options in their local areas.
As COVID-19 has demonstrated, those with pre-existing medical conditions are often at a higher risk of dying from disease outbreaks. A universal healthcare system would target the root of this problem by lessening health disparities among socioeconomic groups.
Higher Wages and Added Job Benefits
As we saw in the Spring and Summer of 2020, stay-at-home orders implemented to limit the spread of the virus were less than helpful for low-income communities. Many low-income Americans had to choose between staying home and continuing to go to work to put food on the table. Some employers even denied paid leave to employees asking to take time off due to the virus.
Currently, many Americans work two or more jobs to meet living expenses. This, in turn, exposes minimum wage workers to more people on the job and during transit. As such, these employees are more likely to be exposed to the virus and spread COVID-19 to their community members. This is one of the main reasons for higher rates of infection in low-income communities.
Increasing the minimum wage can reduce the number of hours and jobs a person has to work to make ends meet. Likewise, a raised minimum wage and added health benefits can help incentivize sick workers to stay home. Without the pressure to decide between a paycheck and one’s health, communities can help keep each other healthy by staying home.
Increased Diversity in Health Management and Policy
Although there have been recent efforts to improve diversity in the policymaking process, decision-makers seldom resemble the communities they represent. Increasing diversity in health management can help better represent the communities receiving healthcare and the growing diverse population in the United States.
With better diversity initiatives, medical centers, organizations, and policymakers can better integrate community stakeholders into the healthcare process. In times like COVID-19, this diversity can lead to more equitable decisions regarding testing, treatment, and vaccination. This approach could target the over-arching issues for the health disparities.
Get in Touch to Learn More
By implementing these social justice initiatives, our policymakers can help remedy the rampant health disparities exposed by COVID-19. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that healthcare is a human right, and the system must be reformed for the benefit of public health. To learn more about how you can help with these types of initiatives, reach out to us today.