Health disparities are rooted in some very complex issues. Health is influenced by many factors, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why differences in rates of illness, mortality, and treatment are so significant.
That being said, disparities are often rooted in social inequities. While these inequities may come in many different forms, there are three major kinds that are often known from attributing to health gaps between different racial/ethnic groups:
Systemic Discrimination, Income Inequality & Environmental Factors
Systemic discrimination can best be described as a behaviors, policies, and practices that can disenfranchise a group due to one or multiple intersecting parts of their identity. Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and ableism are just a few examples of social drivers that are foundational to systemic discrimination.
Income inequality is intertwined with systemic discrimination. In the U.S., there is a demonstrated gap between both wages and access to generational wealth, when you break down income by racial and ethnic demographics. At the same time, the U.S. healthcare system is one of the most expensive in the world. It’s estimated that in 2016, the country spent an average of $10,348 per person on healthcare. U.S. citizens pay more for health services across the board, from clinic visits to prescriptions. Income inequality, then, can affect someone’s likelihood to seek out testing and treatment for HIV and other conditions.
Environmental factors can be hard to pinpoint, but nonetheless have a significant impact on health outcomes. These factors are present in the spaces where we spend the most time — and it’s estimated that more than 12 million people around the world die every year because they live or work in unhealthy environments. Did you know that people receiving a low income are more likely to live in polluted areas? Environmental health issues can interact with HIV risk factors.