The health. However, these behaviors vastly differ from low

The disparities in health and health care are
complex, with different distributions, consequences, and experiences among
different sociological groups. Disparities in health care refer to the (unjust)
differences in the access, quality, and health care coverage received by
different groups. Meanwhile, disparities in health refer to the (unjust)
difference in the likelihood of illness, the experience of illness and
mortality of those different groups.

Society needs to be more concerned about the growing
health and health care disparities for many reasons. The most obvious one is a
social equity and justice perspective. The U.S. is the only industrialized
nation that does not guarantee healthcare to its citizens. Everyone should have
a right to accessible, non-discriminatory and quality care. Another reason is
that health and health care disparities will limit the health and the quality
of care for the entire population and hinder improvements and expansions in
health care overall. Some important elements in gauging a health care system
are access, equity, and health outcomes.

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Newacheck, Hung, Park, Brindis and Irwin (2003)
studied and collected data about disparities in adolescent health and health
care, which showed a strong correlation between socioeconomic status and access
and utilization of health care. Data showed that adolescents with low
socioeconomic status had a low health status overall, with many lacking
insurance coverage and a source of primary care. This, in turn, is directly
associated with lack of access, utilization, and continuity of care. The
biggest factor contributing to health and health care disparities is
socioeconomic status. The gap between high-income individuals and middle to low
income with continues to widen and grow. It is the widening of this gap that
increases the importance of confronting health and health care disparities and
the issues that arise with them.


To suggest more effective mechanisms to address and
reduce health and healthcare disparities, the health behavior attributed to low
socioeconomic status must be analyzed. Smoking, risky behaviors, and poor diets
are all associated with groups of low socioeconomic status. However, it needs
to be emphasized that these behaviors result from, and do not necessarily cause
health and healthcare disparities.

In the U.S., there is an emphasis on anti-smoking,
physical activity and diet as simple initiatives to promote health. However,
these behaviors vastly differ from low to high socioeconomic status groups. People
with low socioeconomic status often have low paying, high-stress jobs that
require extreme labor and long hours. This alone can put anyone in a very
disadvantaged position health-wise. The stress most likely also follows them
home due to struggling with finances and making ends meet, making their stress
chronic, and turn to smoking as a way to cope.

In terms of physical activity and diet, that relates
in some way to finances and time. A low socioeconomic status definitely
prevents one’s ability to join gyms or purchase healthy, organic fruits and
vegetables. America’s built and social environment strengthens the fast-food
industry’s position as a manufacturer of illness. This highly saturated cheap, fast
food environment has become a contributing factor to unhealthy diets and
obesity among individuals with low socioeconomic status.

In general, the weak social and health position that
low socioeconomic groups are put in decreases their motivation to exclude
unhealthy behaviors from their lifestyle to improve their overall health. For
example, many manual workers have to deal with daily exposure to toxic substances
and perform daily extreme and strenuous labor, which are very likely to have
adverse long-term effects on health. Those same workers are not going to quit
smoking because regardless, they are exposed to toxic fumes daily. They also
probably are less likely to visit a doctor for their developed respiratory
problem or back problem. They know that all the doctor is going to suggest is
for them to quit their physically demanding and dangerous job, which,
obviously, is not going to happen.

The amount of money and time that healthy behaviors
require is quite de-incentivizing. Pampel, Krueger, and Patrick (2010) argue that
“increased risks of premature death brought on by worse social conditions among
low-SES persons make health behaviors less beneficial. Low-SES groups may
believe they gain little in terms of longevity from healthy behavior and feel
fatalistic about their ability to act in ways that extend their lives.”  This disregard of long-term health costs also
might explain why groups of low socioeconomic status do not really utilize
health care resources until they are in critical condition. The high-stress
life, isolation, and marginality of groups with low socioeconomic status makes
it hard for them to continue through with treatments, be consistent with
medication, and actively seek out preventative health care resources.


Even though health and health care disparities in the
U.S. are well-documented and researched issues, they continue to persist and
grow, despite active efforts to eliminate them. In the U.S. many only consider
the patient, provider and health care system when assessing disparities.

However, social and environmental factors have to be increasingly taken into
account when assessing the social determinants of health, and the health care
system’s ability to support the reduction in health and health care
disparities.  Disparities in health and
health care affect the individuals facing the disparities and restrict any
attempts to enhance the overall access quality of care and health for the population
as a whole. For many years, there has been an increased awareness about these
disparities and a focus on reducing them and expanding initiatives to address them
at a societal, federal and state, provider and community level.

The ACA has been an effective attempt to improve health
care and reduce the growing disparities. With provisions like the exclusions of
pre-existing conditions and guaranteed issue, the ACA has really made
healthcare more accessible. Although the ACA has in no way perfected the U.S.’s
health care system, the recent narrowing of its mandates is going to have
serious social health implications. With the gap between the upper and middle
to low classes widening, it is becoming increasingly important to address
factors that within, and ones that extend beyond the health care system.

It is definitely communities and surroundings that
contribute to behavior. According to Pampel, Krueger, and Patrick (2010),
affluent communities are more likely to give access and provide the resources for
healthy behavior. For example, high-SES communities seem to be full of gyms,
healthy restaurants, fresh produce markets and recreation and health facilities
while low-SES communities are saturated with fast food restaurants, tobacco and
liquor stores, with little recreational facilities, supermarkets, or health

Another disadvantage that low-socioeconomic groups
face is the lack of social networks. Low-socioeconomic groups face marginality and
isolation, and therefore are excluded from the strong, tight-knit social
networks of high-socioeconomic groups. For example, a high-SES individual is
going to find it easier to quit smoking because he/she will be about to
surround him/herself with non-smokers, go to therapy, ease the symptoms of
withdrawal, etc. On the other hand, a low-SES individual will find it almost
impossible to quit due to the continuous high-stress of his/her lifestyle and
the lack of resources. The exclusion of low-SES groups from these social
networks further widens the disparities discussed and strengthens the influence
of unhealthy behavior among the groups.

Across the U.S., there are community efforts that
emphasize a public health approach to reduce disparities. However, these
efforts need to expand to a national scale to reduce the toxic environmental
and social conditions that lead to these disparities. This expansion will also
shift the nation to focus more on health promotions and offering effective,
affordable and accessible preventative services instead of spending massive
amounts of its budget treating diseases that could have been easily
preventable. Communities in the U.S. need to reach out to low-SES groups and
integrate them into society to further their opportunities and access to

idea has always received a lot of attention and has always been supported
throughout communities. However, this idea of social outreach, support and
cohesion hasn’t really been expanded to a national level and effectively
integrated into our healthcare system. Changing America’s social and
environmental factors and turning them into more positive determinants of
health is definitely easier said than done. However, it is critical in closing
the gap between health and health care disparities between groups with
different socioeconomic status. 


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