Feminism | Posted by Kirsten M on 07/14/2010

Unnatural Causes: Feminism and Health Care

race and accessibility to health care: there IS a link

accessibility to health care: affected by race and class?

Health care reform is on everyone’s radar these days after we’ve watched Obama’s plan go through change after change before being passed this year. It’s been on my radar as a feminist because of the ways that it affects women and their bodies, especially pertaining to the right to choose. Recently, though, a new aspect of healthcare in the U.S. has been brought to my attention that I’m very concerned about, and I was looking for the feminist community’s reaction.

The disturbing aspect is this: unequal societies have worse health outcomes than healthier societies no matter their health care systems. Unequal is defined as having a larger gap between the rich and the poor. The data are represented in a bazillion places – life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, the list goes on. The website based on a PBS video talks about this issue, especially how it pertains to the U.S., who is consistently ranked LOW, LOW, LOW on the health scale despite our huge economic power.

Unnatural Causes Trailer

And the facts about United States Health Care…
Per person, the U.S. spends more than twice the average of other industrialized countries on health care – 16% of our GDP in 2006 – yet has some of the worst health outcomes: worse than 28 other countries in life expectancy (including Jordan) and 29 other countries in infant mortality (including Slovenia).

People in the highest income group can expect to live, on average, at least six and a half years longer than those in the lowest. Even those in the middle (families of four making $41,300 to $82,600 a year in 2007) will die, on average, two years sooner than those at the top.

College graduates can expect to live at least five years longer than those who have not finished high school, and almost two years longer than those who didn’t finish college.

For all the rich countries for which there is data, the U.S. has:
– the highest infant mortality rate
– the highest homicide rate
– the highest teenage birth rate
– the highest incarceration rate (we house one fourth of the world’s prisoners)
– the highest child poverty rate
– the highest child injury death rate
– the greatest gap between high and low mortality rates within a country
– the highest number of people living alone
– the highest poverty rate
– the most hours worked (except for New Zealand)
– the smallest middle class
– the largest wealth gap between the rich and the rest of the population
– the lowest voter turnout

As we as feminists know, the people who are often the victims of this health inequality are people of color and the poor. And, as feminists, our goal is the destruction of dominating power structures and the elimination of inequality. What is the community’s response to the knowledge that our health care is ineffective? That being a person of color in the U.S. kills? How can a feminist community respond as allies?

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  • Juliet @ at 1:47 pm, July 14th, 2010

    It still seems to me that the appropriate response is to support free healthcare – pretty much every other developed nation in the WORLD has it, and we’re doing pretty well. Healthcare should be the most important thing for any government.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 2:32 pm, July 14th, 2010

    Um…I couldn’t help but notice something. College graduates have greater life expectancies than those who don’t finish high school. There are no statistics on whether this is different across different races or gender identifications, so I’m assuming they didn’t cover those statistics. I tend to see a cause and effect here.

    If you don’t bother to finish high school (which, by the way, is provided for free to every citizen of the United States, and is in fact mandatory up to a point), you aren’t likely to get a very high-paying job. If you don’t get a job that pays well, you aren’t likely to have extra money to spend on doctor’s appointments just for a check-up. It’s very upsetting when you think about what this potentially does to a person in the long-run, but it goes back to that whole “didn’t bother to finish high school” thing. There’s really no reason not to finish in the U.S., yet a lot of kids don’t. And they and their unfortunate children reap the results. And this is bad for their kids, and I feel for them. But the question I want to know the answer to is: how do we help the children, who have no control over their impoverished state, without effectively rewarding their parents for their lack of personal responsibility?

  • TTE @ at 6:14 pm, July 14th, 2010

    It’s true that there is a correlation between inequality and relatively poor health outcomes, but there’s no reason to let that particular fact worry you. Correlation is not causation, after all.

    Two people wrote a book called The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. As the title suggests, the authors argue that, among other things, inequality leads to poorer health outcomes, just as the above video suggests. As the review linked below shows, however, things aren’t quite so simple.


  • Unnatural Causes: Feminism and Health Care | fbomb | health @ at 6:41 pm, July 14th, 2010

    […] here to read the rest: Unnatural Causes: Feminism and Health Care | fbomb This entry was posted in Health and tagged community-created, little-bit, rights, […]

  • Alice @ at 1:46 am, July 15th, 2010

    But the question I want to know the answer to is: how do we help the children, who have no control over their impoverished state, without effectively rewarding their parents for their lack of personal responsibility?

    For me, it is important to remember that parental responsibility only goes so far. If children are not finishing high school, then they are being let down by the education system. Somewhere along the line children have disengaged from the school. Children leave school without even basic levels of literacy and numeracy – something that should have been picked up on years and years ago. They may feel embarrased, frustrated, ridiculed by teachers who are asking them to do work that they are incapable of doing. Schools lay the blame on the child – they are too difficult, they are naughty, they are bad. So children simply mark time until they can leave.

    Often this happens over generations. If you have parents/carers who didn’t complete high school, who felt it was a waste of time, who struggled in classes and felt embarrased, ashamed, ridiculed because their needs weren’t met, then they will not value education and will not encourage their children to value it, or support their children with homework, reading, and so on. I remember hearing about some research in the UK that showed that even if a child is given all the best support through school and childcare to improve their literacy, if a parent/carer is illiterate then there is something like a 95% chance that their child will be illiterate too.

    In the UK there has been a big push to reach out to parents as well. Children’s centres and nurseries often offer adult literacy and numeracy classes, as well as various creative and other activities that parents and children can do together. By increasing the skills of parents/carers and helping them to value learning and education, you also improve the chances for their children.

    There are many reasons why children may not finish high school in the US, even though it is mandatory and free. Poverty, abusive or unsafe homes, teenage pregnancy… just getting to school, never mind doing well in school, requires a level of stability and support in a child’s home life that, for many reasons, may simply not exist. We shouldn’t think of it as ‘rewarding’ parents for their bad behaviour/choices but working with a family (and community) to improve the chances of the whole family. Afterall, a better educated/skilled parent/carer will be in a better position to support their family, helping to give the child a safer, more stable home life so that they can go on to succeed.

  • Rosewell Georgia @ at 1:50 am, July 15th, 2010

    A very nice informative article about the unnatural causes of health i think most of the people can not now about this this is a very helpful post thanks.

  • alyssa @ at 1:11 pm, July 16th, 2010

    great post thank you for the info we need to help the USA more and no one else

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