As we learned in lecture, a health disparity is an inequality that occurs in healthcare and access to healthcare across different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. A prime example of a health disparity is diabetes, which African Americans, Latinos, and lower income earners are twice as likely to develop than white people and higher income earners are. They are also much more likely to suffer from complications due to their diabetes, such as leg amputations.
How does the Social- Ecological Model (SEM) help to explain this health disparity? On the societal level, Hispanics and Blacks make only a percentage of what white men make, even if they are doing the same job. With less money, these populations are unable to pay for the best health care. Also, statistically, lower income patients were far less likely to receive the yearly tests recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Hispanics and African Americans also have a much smaller chance of meeting the A1C goal than whites. Also, even though most clinicians know that diet and physical activity play a huge role in maintaining diabetes, fewer Hispanics, African Americans, low income earners, and people with less than a high school education were never given instructions for a changed diet or increased physical activity by their physicians. On the community level of the SEM, diabetes in poor areas is more prevalent, and many patients have worse outcomes than those in upper class neighborhoods. Why is that? Is it because they can not afford the healthier diet, or their health care providers are not as good as those in rich areas? On the individual level, if I barely have enough money to buy cheap food, how am I supposed to change my diet completely to healthier options? If I have to work my minimum wage job sixty hours a week, how am I going to exercise more? The other factors in my life, due to my socio-economic position, make it much harder for me to improve my condition.
One initiative that has been implemented to help inform more patients about their condition and how to improve it, is for doctors to learn medical Spanish. This is allowing more doctors to communicate more clearly with their Hispanic patients. On an individual level, this initiative will increase Hispanic patients’ knowledge about what they need to do to maintain their diabetes and keeping it from getting worse.