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Where Politics and Medicine Intersect

Medicine and health care, like many other institutions, are part of a national and global politics. Certain health and medical issues can be addressed through policy changes, and conversely, efforts from medical professionals can inform political decisions. In recent years, issues related to access to health care have been a significant point of contention. Research revealed that cultural and socioeconomic factors can affect an individual’s access to care and health outcomes, and policies are being proposed and implemented to address such disparities.

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One significant factor for shaping the public opinion of health care policy is the deservingness heuristic. It is the principle that “Citizens support benefits for those they perceive as victims of uncontrollable events and, hence, deserving of help, whereas they oppose benefits for those who are to blame for their own plight” (Jensen & Petersen, 2016, p. 69). As medical issues tend to be viewed as uncontrollable consequences of biology, the view on them is generally favorable (Jensen & Petersen, 2016). However, health disparities exist based on socioeconomic status, which is often seen as being caused, at least in part, by the individual.

Policies can influence the availability of health care for various populations. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), for instance, is a significant political issue that targets disparities in access to health care. It succeeded in providing access to Americans with lower socioeconomic status (Griffith, Evans, & Bor, 2017). However, it has not resolved the issue entirely as a significant portion of low-income individuals in the U.S. still lack the insurance coverage necessary for access to a high standard of health care (Griffith et al., 2017). This shows that changes in policy brought by political movements can influence health care by addressing disparities in access.

Health care professionals are in a unique position to identify such disparities and advocate for policy changes. As social equity is a significant issue in modern politics, advocating for these disparities recognition and addressing can lead to policy changes. For example, smoking is more prevalent among the poor and less-educated (Cohen & Marshall, 2016). Therefore, bringing this connection to the public view can lead to policy changes targeting it and ultimately improving the health of the affected population.


Cohen, B. E., & Marshall, S. G. (2016). Does public health advocacy seek to redress health inequities? A scoping review. Health & Social Care in the Community, 25(2), 309-328. Web.

Griffith, K., Evans, L., & Bor, J. (2017). The affordable care act reduced socioeconomic disparities in health care access. Health Affairs, 36(8), 1503–1510. Web.

Jensen, C., & Petersen, M. B. (2016). The deservingness heuristic and the politics of health care. American Journal of Political Science, 61(1), 68-83. Web.

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