Health equity is an economic issue as well as a social issue. Several disparities are determined by ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, and the location of the region. The causes of these inequalities are shown through an increase in infant mortality rates, and a decrease in life expectancy and rates of preventable disease. The main factors of these inequalities are the smoking rates, access to care, nutrition, and physical activity. Health and healthcare inequities result in the inferiority of healthcare, worse health outcomes for minority populations and those of low status, decreased productivity, and varying use of corporate healthcare profits. These health disparities are a reflection of the persistent inequities that exist in American society.
One way to improve health equity is for employers to ensure that their resources are received by diverse populations in the highest quality possible. This can be done by choosing health plans that offer cultural proficiency. This is a crucial step to reduce racial stereotyping and ensures equal services to all populations.
Healthcare organizations can also employ a more diverse workforce of healthcare providers. This is important because ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the healthcare industry. This is also a crucial addition as minorities are often more comfortable seeing a provider of a similar ethnic background which allows for better communication and patient-provider relationship. This causes biased care, judgments, and assumptions to occur less. In addition, this allows for healthcare and public health organizations to collect and use data on these groups to improve the quality of care for their diverse populations as well as point out specific health needs and help plan targeted involvement.
Health plans and insurance companies can reduce health disparities by using innovative and wide-ranging strategies. One example of this was when the National Health Plan Collaborative brought together 11 leading health plans, including Aetna, Kaiser Permanente, Humana, and UnitedHealth Group among others, to create a toolkit that combined case studies, sample tools, policies, and other resources to help reduce health disparities within their memberships. One way this was done was by using geographic information system mapping to identify the most optimal areas for targeted intercessions. This tool can make it possible to closely examine social and health factors at the neighborhood level, which can help with analyzing the health plan market area for specific health conditions, such as people with skin conditions who have not received recommended care in a particular region.
Health begins in the environments in which we are born, live, and work. Engaging with the social and economic conditions of health is a critical component of any inclusive health equity strategy to improve the health of people throughout the nation and decrease healthcare costs. Improving community environments by supporting programs and policies that address these health inequalities ensures that the root causes are addressed.