How would you define the broad impact of economic status on health disparities?
Economic status – sometime referred to as socioeconomic status, socioeconomic position, or social class – is probably the most important determinant of health as well as the largest contribution to racial/ethnic disparities in health. The data is very persistent and consistent over time, although the strength of the economic status–health relationship does vary, based on macroeconomic and social conditions.
Financial stability is a major part of receiving good healthcare. How many people do you believe meet that standard?
I think this depends on how financial stability is measured. A common measure of low income status, for instance, is persons with incomes that are below 200% of the federal poverty level. In 2020, that was 27.5%, but it was much higher for Black (40.7%) and Hispanic (41.4%) persons.
Do you believe that government funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid help alleviate the impact of financial status on health disparities for certain communities?
Absolutely. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Research suggests that Medicaid expansion is linked to increased access to care, improvements in some health outcomes, and has contributed to reductions in racial disparities in health coverage. However, as of February 2022, 12 states have not yet adopted the Medicaid expansion.” One of those states is Texas, the state with the highest uninsured rate (18.4%).
In your personal experience, do you believe that economic status is the largest determining factor in health disparities? Why or why not?
If by “health disparities,” you mean racial/ethnic differences in health, then yes, because a history of structural racism has sorted populations of color into neighborhoods with fewer resources to obtain financial stability and higher economic status.
Interviewed by Dipti Venkatesh