The information that we covered for this exam is more interesting to me personally as compared to the information of last exam because it deals heavily with how socio-economic status affects a person’s health and their susceptibility to illness. Being an immigrant/minority, I found it extremely interesting (and admittedly alarming) how largely the gap between health for minorities and white Americans differ.
We’ve become all too familiar with the racial disparities that African Americans have faced, and continue to face on a day to day basis. African Americans have constantly been faced with social disadvantages, including “poor heredity, neglect of infants, bad dwellings, poor food, and unsanitary living conditions” (Williams and Sternhal, pg. S16). African Americans have also been noted to have among the lowest socioeconomic statuses of all races, which have detrimental and perpetuating effects on healthcare, access to education, living environments, job opportunities, etc. Racial segregation also has a huge impact on African Americans, as “blacks currently live under a level of segregation that is higher than that of any other immigrant group in U.S. history” (Williams and Sternhal, pg. S20).
It’s evident in Williams and Sternhal’s article, Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health : Sociological Contributions, that these issues that African Americans face have stemmed from a historical lineage of constant oppression and stratification. It has also been highlighted the importance of approaching these issues from a socioeconomic standpoint, rather than just a basic race stance. Race has already been proved to have absolutely no biological context to it, and is simply a social construct that we as a society have created. “Sociological research has shown that differences in SES affect patterns and trajectories of health in important ways” (Williams and Sternhal, S21). Analyzing social issues from a socioeconomic point of view has given sociologists not only a better image of the problem, but an even better image of possible solutions to such a perpetuating problem. Since SES includes the many aspects that simply “race” does not, including education, living conditions, income level, etc., sociologists are able to isolate problems and provide reasonings and methods as to ways of combatting the problem.
My question begins with this: It is clear that the general consensus among many sociologists is that socioeconomic status can provide much insight into why exactly certain racial problems exist, and in what ways they’re affecting a racial group. SES is also extremely helpful in determining solutions and rationalizing these persisting problems, evident from Williams and Sternhals paper. Why is it, then, that the U.S. public system continues to report national health data by race? To put it in context, “For over 100 years, the U.S. public health system has routinely reported national health data by race. Instructively, although SES differences in health are typically larger than racial ones, health status differences by SES are seldom reported, and only very rarely are data on health status presented by race and SES simultaneously” (Williams and Sternhal, S22). Why are health status differences by SES seldom reported, when it is in fact SES that helps determine solutions and preventative measures in order to fix such a persisting problem? Is the U.S. public system trying to purposely hide such a significant problem, or are they avoiding the potentially costly measures we need to take in order to fix the problems we see through socioeconomic status?
We have been studying how the socio-economic status of a person is a strong predictor of health, as well as what factors contribute to this status. In fact, the socio-economic status of a person is a better predictor of health problems than genetics. Why is that important to our discussion of race? It’s very important because, on average, in our society, socio-economic status differs by race. On average, African Americans have lower levels of income, lower levels of wealth, and lower levels of education than whites do. And for other minority populations, a similar pattern is evident. Additionally, African Americans have a high mortality and morbidity rate as well.
The article titled “Social conditions as Fundamental Causes of Health Inequalities: Theory, Evidence and Policy Implications” backs up the claim that socioeconomic status influences both health and mortality rates in communities and individuals and explains in detail why socioeconomic inequalities persist. The authors discuss that the social causes in health inequalities must include four parts: it influences multiple disease outcomes, affects these disease outcomes through multiple risk factors, involves access to resources that can be used to avoid risks or to minimize the consequences of disease once it occur, and replacing intervening mechanisms allow the association between a cause and health to be reproduced over time. Continue reading “Combating Socioeconomic Inequalities”