The multiple causes of health disparities and the work of the Justice Center
Here at the Justice Center we work on multiple issues. My area is health care but my colleagues tackle a huge range of things like improving education for everyone, bringing good jobs to NC, how to make state tax policy more fair and why every family should be able to rent (or own) basic, decent housing. Why do we tackle so many issues instead of just regurgitating talking points like some of our right-wing counterparts? Because a long and productive life in our society is related to all of them.
And that brings me back to health care. We know there are huge disparities in both mortality and how often people get sick based on factors like their race, income and where they live. But better health care for everyone, as promised by the new Affordable Care Act, isn’t the only answer. People also need to be able to get a good job, rent a decent home, and have the opportunity for a good education. And they sure don’t need to be taxed at a higher rate on their income than the average millionaire.
Maybe only policy wonks like me will read it, but this month the journal Health Affairs devotes its entire issue to the existence and causes of disparities in health:
Health disparities by racial or ethnic group or by income or education are only partly explained by disparities in medical care. Inadequate education and living conditions—ranging from low income to the unhealthy characteristics of neighborhoods and communities—can harm health through complex pathways. Meaningful progress in narrowing health disparities is unlikely without addressing these root causes. Policies on education, child care, jobs, community and economic revitalization, housing, transportation, and land use bear on these root causes and have implications for health and medical spending. A shortsighted political focus on reducing spending in these areas could actually increase medical costs by magnifying disease burden and widening health disparities.
We’ll keep working on health care issues here at the Justice Center. But we’ll also keep working on all the other areas that hold the promise for a good life for everyone in North Carolina. Because real problems in our state demand real solutions and not just knee-jerk complaints about the evils of big government.