Friday, June 14, 2024

Health Equity: A Call To Action

June 19, 2022 by  
Filed under Health


Lisa Thompson

Health equity is a term that has become a popular buzz phrase these days. It has been thrown around all over the news and social media, but its definition is not clear, and many people do not really understand what they are talking about when they mention it.

Health equity simply means optimal health for all — no matter where you live, your economic status, your race, your ethnicity, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your religious beliefs, the language you speak, your disabilities or your age. It means that everyone should have fair access to the resources they need to live the healthiest lives possible.

However, living the healthiest life possible takes more than just access to healthcare services and medications. It requires other life essentials, which are known as social determinants of health. These include safe housing, food security, fair income, education, and transportation to get to work, school and healthcare appointments.

We know that different people experience different challenges when trying to keep up with their health. Some people simply cannot access healthcare services — and obstacles, or disparities, are amplified when people don’t have basic necessities. Disparities have deep roots in our healthcare system and are based on many types of discrimination — including racism, place-ism, income and level of education, among many others. We can’t be complacent about healthcare disparities, and we can’t believe that they don’t affect all of us.

U.S. statistics show that racial health disparities result in more than $90 billion in excess medical care costs. This is one of the reasons why our healthcare is so expensive. Race is not the only contributing factor though. The CDC has identified that cost of care is highest in areas of poverty. Also, an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association a few years ago demonstrated that the richest people in this country live an average of 14 years longer than the poorest people. Obviously, we are all paying the costs of disparities in healthcare!

While it may seem that our healthcare system is broken and that healthy equity is an impossible goal, there are things we can do to make things better. First, we need to educate ourselves about the facts around health equity and the health disparities that affect our community. Next, we have to empower ourselves to take control of our own healthcare. We should stop being afraid to ask questions of our healthcare providers when we do not understand something. We should voice our grievances when we feel that we are not getting the resources we need to live a healthy life. This means being active participants in our healthcare and prioritizing our health.

Taking responsibility for our health is vital because a healthy life is our right no matter who we are, or where we live.

Dr. Lisa Thompson is the Medical Director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Nevada. Dr. Thompson joined Anthem in 2017 and is responsible for oversight of all medical care programs serving the members of the health plan including quality, utilization review, medical management strategy, appeals and grievances and network credentialing. In addition, she provides medical leadership to the health plan team and serves as one of the principle medical advisors for cost of care program ideation and implementation. Currently, she leads the health plan’s Health Equity Task Force.

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