It's well-known that socioeconomic disparities tend to lead to poor health, and poor healthcare outcomes - but why is this? One of the best explanations we've found was in an Academic Medicine journal article entitled Health Disparities Based on Socioeconomic Inequities: Implications for Urban Health Care.
The article covers several aspects of how poor healthcare goes hand in hand with socioeconomic disparities, but its section on "Explanations" in particular has a lot of value.
The Reciprocal Relationships
Typically, such analyses focus on how lower economic status correlates to less access to healthcare. However, what's not discussed as often is the reverse relationship: how easily poor health leads to lowered economic opportunity.
If someone gets sick or injured and loses their job, this can become a major hurdle to regaining employment later. People with chronic illnesses often find themselves in a downward spiral, unable to find sufficient employment, as their medical costs grow. These problems become even more pressing in people with reduced education - which is also typically among economically vulnerable communities.
In addition, this direct relationship between socioeconomic status and health survives an analysis of confounding factors such as genetics. In studies controlled for genetic elements, childhood socioeconomic status still accurately predicts healthiness as an adult.
Childhood Factors Predict Adult Health
Another area the study delves into is how habits and behaviors common among lower economic classes can hamper children's health across their lifetime. It's well-known, for example, that children of smokers tend to have much higher rates of health problems than adults.
Other contributing factors include malnutrition, lack of access to educational opportunities, environmental toxins (commonplace in low-income communities), and fewer opportunities for exercise. All these factors, and more, put low-income students at high risk of lifelong health problems which will, in turn, create additional barriers to gainful employment or opportunities to improve their own condition.
All this is further complicated by the lack of easy access to quality healthcare among low-income people. Children born into this situation have every aspect of their lives stacked against them, with very few - if any - resources capable of helping them overcome these major challenges.
Finding New Solutions to Socioeconomic Disparities In Healthcare
This is why Socially Determined was founded: to help healthcare providers, payers, and government agencies understand the social nature of healthcare, and to find new solutions that provide better outcomes for more people across economic strata.