Should income dictate how long we live? Of course not, but in our current healthcare system, it does.
And this is only one of many disparities. If you compare the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans to the poorest 1% of Americans, there is a 14-year difference for men and a 10-year difference for women in how long they live. We’re 43rd in the world for life expectancy but spend more than twice that of any other nation on healthcare. Despite medical eligibility, socioeconomic factors greatly determine the course of care for so many patients.
There are also major differences in care, accessibility, and health outcomes due to race, ethnicity, gender, and education level, among other factors.
LGBTQ patients have a hard time finding healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about their unique needs; they are often discriminated against by providers and insurance companies which can lead them to put off seeking the care they need or not be able to get it in a timely way when they do. And this has been further supported by federal efforts to roll back LGBTQ protections under Health and Human Services. This sets these patients up for greater risk of everything from depression and addiction to cancer and other chronic diseases.
It’s clear we need to move healthcare away from an exclusive system to one that is inclusive and accessible. If we look closer at the social determinants of health—like socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment, and social support networks—we can begin to focus on interventions in healthcare that reduce these disparities.
If you missed last week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, I sat down with Dr. Anand Parekh to talk about the policies that are holding many people back from their best health.
Dr. Parekh is the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) chief medical advisor, providing clinical and public health expertise across the organization, particularly in the areas of aging, prevention, and global health. Prior to joining BPC, he completed a decade of service at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He has spoken widely and written extensively on a variety of health topics and is the author of a new book entitled Prevention First – Policymaking for a Healthier America.
We touch on some really important topics for shaping the future of healthcare. Many of our peer countries focus on prevention and investing in social services to educate diverse communities and keep them well. Here in the US, we wait for people to get sick, then we deal with it (and only if they can make it through all the hurdles I mentioned above).
Dr. Parekh shares some valuable insights and solutions for moving healthcare in a more positive direction. I hope you’ll tune in.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD