It seems like there is a never-ending list of health disparities that exist. Those disparities are derived from a complex set of factors, often referred to as social determinants of health. While addressing these disparities at the individual level, it needs to happen at the community level as well. This systematic approach includes improving access to culturally competent care, having safe and healthy environments, addressing food desserts, improving health literacy, providing education about healthy behaviors, and care coordination. The approach taken needs to be data-driven and utilize innovative as well as evidence-based programs.
But at the core of health equity is economics. Socio-economic status is fundamental to health. It enables people to avoid unhealthy choices, such as eating at fast food restaurants due to the low cost, while enabling healthy ones, such as purchasing a Waterpik. Finances often keep people trapped in unhealthy behaviors and situations. For example, a person in a domestic violence situation may not have the option to leave the abusive partner for financial reasons. Financial education and job training should begin early in life as the need for skills and education can widen disparities for those who do not have a strong start with initial qualifications.
Equitable communities need to have a shared vision and a systematic approach to build community capacity. Pathways to healthier and more equitable communities in which individuals and families live, learn, work, and play require a multi-faceted and multi-level collaborative approach. The approaches need continuous data-driven evaluation and monitoring so that resources on the pathway to equity are used effectively as everyone deserves the opportunity to live a healthy life.
If you would like to learn more, you can read about culturally appropriate evaluation methods here!