Custom «Social Determinants of Health» Essay Paper Sample
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It is amazing that individuals can control a substantial percentage of the diseases that affect them today by just taking some simple measures. However, numerous factors affect the health of an individual. At first, the environment where a person lives, including the immediate setting at home, the community, and neighborhoods, is a significant aspect that determines the health of an individual. The kind of lifestyle that a person adopts is what determines whether an individual will stay healthy. For example, some of the practices such as eating fast food and exercising less are key issues that expose people to health risks. The access to social resources and opportunities is another factor that impacts individual health. Because of the social interactions to which people are exposed, some of them are healthier than others. The current paper provides an explicit insight into the social determinants of health and the cause of health disparities in the US health care.
Definition of Social Determinants of Health
The social determinants of health mean the environment where an individual lives and work. Such an environment presents various health risks and outcomes. The social determinant of health covers a wide scope of social factors. The key components of the social determinants of health are described below.
First, an education is an important social determinant of health. The level of education of an individual is a major factor that determines the health of a person (Graham, 2011). It is eminent that educated people are more concerned about their health when compared to the less educated individuals in the society. Educated people are likely to adopt healthy lifestyles because they are aware of what contributes to good health (Marmot & Wilkinson, 2011). On the other hand, there are health disparities between the less educated individuals in the society and those who are educated. In particular, less educated individuals are prone to ignore some of the health basics such as hygiene. They are not likely to be concerned about their health and, thus, they may end up developing bad health (Social Determinants of Health, n.d.).
Another component of the social determinants of health is the economic status of an individual. Money is one of the key determinants of good health. All the issues related to health revolve around the economic status of a person. In contrast to indigent individuals who cannot even afford three meals a day, rich people are in a better position to have access to high-quality foods. Moreover, they can easily afford a balanced diet (Graham, 2011). Therefore, there are serious health disparities between the rich and the poor. The poor are more likely to be affected by easily preventable diseases (World Health Organization [WHO], 2013). On the other hand, people who have money can also afford to seek medical attention when they become ill. Therefore, wealthy individuals have more access to health care facilities than the poor do. Consequently, they are more likely to benefit from the health care services than the indigent people are (Marmot & Wilkinson, 2011).
Furthermore, the social economic status determines where an individual lives. The people of the low economic status are prone to live in the neighborhoods that do not have access to good water and even sanitation. Moreover, such areas are also overcrowded. In one way or another, such an environment does not support good health.
On the other hand, the proximity of health care services is another social determinant of health. People who live in a place where it is easy to access the health care facilities are more likely to have good health since they will be seeking medical attention when they become ill. However, there is a high probability that individuals who do not have such an access will have bad health (Marmot & Wilkinson, 2011).
Finally, access to media is another social determinant of health. The media are a major source of information and people who do not have access to it do not obtain important health information. These individuals lack awareness about their health and, therefore, they may have poor health due to the lack of information concerning health (Treadwell, Xanthos, & Holden, 2013).
Inequalities in the US Health Care System
Inequalities have continued to prevail in the US health care system because of a number of factors explained below. Thefundamental challenge to managing health care equality has been connecting health research with the real-world application. It was initially assumed that research outcomes based on ensuring equality could be effective without paying much attention to mechanisms or target population. However, this has not been the case as mechanisms for translating research results have not been effective because much emphasis has not been put on the application, especially in public hospitals (Graham, 2009). The former has led to inequalities, as the health care system has been unable to build sustainability at the community level. There is a lack of proper health care options that address the emerging health issues in the changing world. Only a portion of the population receives extensive medical care while a large percentage of people cannot access quality care (Graham, 2011).
The gaps depicted in the health care system in the United States relate to socioeconomic and political factors. Even in the midst of policies aimed at managing social factors, social-based disparities have plagued the US health system. Social determinants approach to health encompasses the conditions under which individuals live and the broader forces and systems that shape daily life conditions. Individuals in the poor state cannot access quality health care because they cannot afford it (WHO, 2013). The fundamental inequalities relate to socioeconomic factors, social norms, policies, physical and social environments, as well as the accessibility to health services (Adler & Newman, 2013).
Furthermore, the health care disparities are linked to race, socioeconomic aspects, and elements of social inequities that result from the critical confluence of physician, patient, and system level elements. The health needs and expectations of socially disadvantaged patients are not met, as the primary care is ill-equipped; hence, they end up receiving unequal care. Social stratification breeds disparities in the sense that it depicts different levels of people because unconscious clinicians have a bias towards the socially disadvantaged persons (Adler & Newman, 2013).
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Other key challenges that have also fostered inequalities in the health care systems include aligning health care resources and efforts with patients’ needs. Resources are misaligned at different levels of the patient visit to hospital and practice. Another challenge is the provision of quality primary care to socially disadvantaged patients (WHO, n.d.). Most public hospitals are not extensively equipped as compared to private and other expensive public hospitals, meaning that the poor population is denied the necessary access to quality health care (Social Determinants of Health, n.d.).
Reduced resources and shortage of health care workers have also influenced inequalities in the public health care systems (Barr, 2014). Resources are not evenly distributed across the population, which means that a high percentage of health care programs, especially those implemented in disadvantaged regions, do not have adequate resources to be properly managed (Fiscella, 2011). Furthermore, the shortage of workers has been necessitated by the lack of proper remuneration. Hospital work usually requires coping with various stressful situations. Consequently, medical workers face life-threatening illnesses and injuries complicated by understaffing, overwork, tight schedules, demanding and dependent patients, and patient deaths. All of the above factors result in stressful conditions (Fiscella, 2011). Health care workers are not motivated to work their best; therefore, they end up providing sub-standard services. On the contrary, staffs working in private and costly hospitals are well remunerated, which is reflected in their work. Hence, the totality of the mentioned aspects leads to the inequality in health care.
WHO Stand on Health Inequalities
According to WHO (n.d.), health inequalities are variations in the health status or health determinants among different groups of people. The inequalities can be evidenced by simple indicators such as the variation in the mortality rates among various groups of people (WHO, n.d.). The inequality can also be exhibited by other factors such as differences in mortality among different classes of people. Most health inequalities result from biological conditions that are free of choice. On the other hand, some inequalities emerge due to external factors in the environment, which may be out of control of individuals (WHO, n.d.). Due to the prevailing environmental conditions and the fact that differences will always exist, it is hard to eliminate health disparities that exist in the society. According to WHO (n.d.), it may be unacceptable or unethical to make a change in the health determinants that cause the discrepancies in the health care. WHO status about the health inequality presupposes that health inequality is unavoidable. However, the unequal distribution of health care is unjust and unfair; thus, health disparities have contributed to health inequity (Graham, 2009).
Despite the prevalence of the health care inequalities, various solutions and recommendation that can be implemented while addressing health inequalities. At first, the promotion of the participation in the policy-making and in the implementation process will assist in reducing the inequalities (WHO, 2013). Some inequalities exist because there is no full participation and representation of the key players in all areas. Some groups are left out and, thus, their needs and interests are not featured in the policy development. By encouraging the participation of all key players, one will be in a better position to address the inequalities that exist in the healthcare sector (Graham, 2009). Second, it is imperative to take measures that will help to monitor progress and accountability. By making monitoring and evaluating a continuous process, it will be easy to assess areas of weaknesses, so that a corrective action can be taken in due course (WHO, n.d.).
Another way of reducing the differences is by reorienting health sectors so that they can focus on the promotion of health (Graham, 2009). It is eminent that health care organizations are doing less in terms of health promotion. As a result, health inequalities continue to persist. Through their efforts of promoting health, health care organizations will be in a better position to reduce the inequalities that exist in the health care sector (WHO, n.d.). Some inequalities exist because the health care organizations are not committed to the promotion of health care. However, when they commit themselves towards promoting health, it is obvious that the number of inequalities will also reduce (WHO, n.d.).
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Poor governance is one of the key factors that have caused inequalities in the health care sector. As a way of addressing the issue of inequality, it is imperative to improve the overall governance and the development of the health care sector (WHO, n.d.). Most challenges experienced in the health care system can be easily addressed if the governments put the right governance framework in place. In addition, there is a need to promote accountability in health care organizations (WHO, n.d.). The inequalities that exist in health care systems prevail because the responsible organizations are not held accountable. These organizations may end up providing poor quality services since no one will hold them accountable (WHO, n.d.). Hence, there is an urgent need to consider this issue and ensure that these organizations are held responsible for their actions. Through the above actions, it will be possible to reduce health inequalities (WHO, n.d.).
Finally, the efforts to address the problem should also be made through strengthening global and local collaboration. Nations need to come together and address the problem of health inequality. If nations combine efforts and decide to take a course of action at the global level, it will be easy to address the issue of health inequality.
Many health determinants are affecting the health of individuals today. The social determinants are responsible for serious discrepancies that exist in the healthcare systems nowadays. Some social determinants include the social, economic status of an individual, the level of education, access to social media, and even the surrounding environment. According to WHO, health inequalities are unavoidable. However, by adopting measures such as good governance and participation in the policy-making process, it is easy to reduce the number of health inequalities. Health care inequalities continue to prevail in the United States because of the social determinants of health. Another contributing factor is the difference in access to health care and the fact that some facilities are not well equipped. However, through the efforts of government, in particular, and combined efforts of various nations, in general, the issue of health inequality can be solved in the future.
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