As we learned in class, the Socio-Ecological Model shows how different levels of society are affected by a variety of health issues, with its main focus on the public policy aspect of it. There’s no doubt that many health disparities continue to exist in the world today with larger issues more known to us such as social injustice and health care coverage, yet sometimes we forget that other issues such as obesity or geographical location have a large impact on health disparities as well.
One example of a health care disparity that many continue to face today is the lack of healthy food options in our communities that ultimately lead us to make poor food choices on a daily basis. In relation to the Socio-Ecological model, an individual may choose to depend on fast-food chains due to limited income or easy accessibility to these places. In addition, having these fast food options is efficient for us to simply grab food to-go and continue on with our busy lives which is one of the reason why many people turn to this lifestyle. Following the personal level, it then spreads to the relationship/interpersonal level where the individual’s closest social circle, partners, and family members become influenced by their behavior and start to experience similar lifestyles. And as a result, these poor food choices can lead to obesity if proper exercise is not consistently maintained. Lastly, the public policy / societal aspect is looked at as we seek to identify the characteristics of these settings that are associated with poor health choices, and why many people so easily fall victim to this.
There are many smaller issues that can lead to health disparities and making poor food choices is just one of many. Although we might not consider it a big deal, these unhealthy lifestyles can lead to larger issues for many low-income individuals such as a high risk of obesity and/or the inability to receive adequate quality care, which in turn can lead to poorer health outcomes. These small issues may not seem significant compared to the social injustice of minority groups we hear about all over the news, yet it’d be foolish of us to ignore them until they become an even larger issue.
Some of the key initiatives that are helping to reduce health disparities are the 2011 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Disparities Action Plan, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Disparities Action Plan sets out a series of priorities, strategies, actions, and goals to achieve a vision of “a nation free of disparities in health and health care”. On the other hand, the ACA helps to increase coverage option for low-and moderate-income populations and includes other provisions to address disparities. One way we can personally address health disparities is by making smarter choices about our diet and thinking of the long-term effects caused by these. Healthy eating is not necessarily about strict dietary limitations, but also about depriving ourselves of the unnecessary, fattening foods we love. If we can educate our communities about the importance of eating healthier, obesity rates wouldn’t be as profound an issue and poor health outcomes wouldn’t be as prominent in the world.