One of the main healthcare policy issues that are currently in need of addressing is health equity (HE) (American Public Health Association [APHA], 2015). Alternatively, it can be identified as the presence of health and care disparities (Ubri & Artiga, 2016). In other words, HE is a challenge, and the present brief will provide its overview complete with potential solutions.
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Health and healthcare inequalities define the disparities in health and care that are determined by social factors (Ubri & Artiga, 2016). Such issues affect a very diverse population, but they are often concerned with marginalized groups, which can intersect (Ubri & Artiga, 2016; Voyles & Sell, 2015). The population of different countries, including the US, is becoming increasingly diverse (Ubri & Artiga, 2016). Therefore, the group that is affected by the challenge is very large and includes the people of varied socioeconomic statuses, racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, orientations, and so on. Moreover, the problem exists at multiple levels. Nation-level interventions are significant, but state and local policies are also important. APHA (2015) notes that the considerations of HE need to be addressed by policy-makers of all levels when preparing and reviewing any kind of policy because HE is interconnected with a variety of other areas.
The evidence on the topic is sufficient because the challenge is long-standing. In the US, there is ample data to indicate that people of color are more likely to delay visits to doctors than White people, and low-income individuals report more barriers to care than people with less financial difficulties. For instance, Hispanic populations tend to avoid visiting doctors because of costs; American Indians and Alaskan Natives are very likely to do the same for non-financial reasons (Ubri & Artiga, 2016). Similarly, chronic conditions are more common among LGBT people than heterosexuals, but the research on the topic is underfunded (Ubri & Artiga, 2016; Voyles & Sell, 2015). The disparities affect specific conditions, substance use, mental health, and other areas. Similar issues can be found outside of the US (Fisher, Baum, Kay, & Friel, 2017). Thus, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the issue is present and in need of solutions.
Based on the above-presented information, the following problem statement can be drawn. There are disparities in health and care that are the result of social inequality. Disadvantaged groups are disproportionately affected by illnesses and have reduced access to care, which violates their right to the latter. Thus, it is necessary to address the issue and provide appropriate solutions to it.
The most common approach to health equity policies is concerned with specific care coverage options (Fisher et al., 2017; Ubri & Artiga, 2016). An example is the US Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was primarily developed to improve access to care and has succeeded in reducing disparities in this regard (Ubri & Artiga, 2016). However, coverage is not the only approach to relevant policies. Other important activities include the improvement of healthcare infrastructure, the training and empowerment of its workforce, and research on the topic (Purnell et al., 2016; Ubri & Artiga, 2016; Voyles & Sell, 2015). Also, the introduction of non-coverage approaches to equity (for instance, culturally appropriate care) are similarly important (Purnell et al., 2016). Furthermore, non-governmental efforts are also notable; they are typically funded by local or state institutions or private organizations and provide policies and interventions that consist of similar components (Ubri & Artiga, 2016). Therefore, the primary approach to HE comprises comprehensive policies that should include all the mentioned options and be coordinated by specific objectives and strategies.
Stakeholders and Funding Considerations
The stakeholders of HE are multiple. First, the populations which are affected by the issue should be empowered to participate in policy-making. Additionally, healthcare providers have the unique knowledge that can help them to provide useful commentary on the topic, which is why they are important stakeholders as well. Varied organizations, including private and public ones, can assist with resources. Finally, policymakers are major stakeholders (APHA, 2015; Purnell et al., 2016). The mentioned groups can contribute to the development of HE policies. As for funding, it is not possible to draw a budget for the identified solution within this brief, but it should be stated that one of the first issues to eliminate is funding disparities (Voyles & Sell, 2015). As a result, the process of funding the identified initiatives should require careful analysis of the existing state of events and the reasons behind it, which should lead to an improved distribution of finances.
Impact on the Health Care Delivery System
As it was mentioned, health inequities affect health care delivery systems, as well as the rights of people to care. Some of the key consequences of the issue are reduced access to care, its lower quality, and adverse health outcomes for the affected populations (Purnell et al., 2016; Ubri & Artiga, 2016). Additionally, inequity tends to result in increased spending (Ubri & Artiga, 2016). Thus, multiple negative outcomes of health inequities can be found. In turn, HE should help to remove them, which would be beneficial for the society and ensure the protection of the right to care for all groups within it.
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In summary, HE is challenging to achieve, but the adverse outcomes of inequality in the field, as well as its problematic nature from the perspective of human rights, imply that it is necessary to address the problem. The most appropriate approach to the task is a comprehensive effort. An example of such a policy is ACA, which has produced some positive outcomes. Still, in order to achieve HE, it is necessary to unite the efforts of multiple stakeholders and proceed to work on the issue.
American Public Health Association. (2015). Better health through equity. Web.
Fisher, M., Baum, F., Kay, A., & Friel, S. (2017). Are changes in Australian national primary healthcare policy likely to promote or impede equity of access? A narrative review. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 23(3), 209. Web.
Purnell, T., Calhoun, E., Golden, S., Halladay, J., Krok-Schoen, J., Appelhans, B., & Cooper, L. (2016). Achieving health equity: Closing the gaps in health care disparities, interventions, and research. Health Affairs, 35(8), 1410-1415. Web.
Ubri, P., & Artiga, S. (2016). Disparities in health and health care: Five key questions and answers. Web.
Voyles, C., & Sell, R. (2015). Continued disparities in lesbian, gay, and bisexual research funding at NIH. American Journal of Public Health, 105(S3), e1-e2. Web.