Buying Health

Annie Heathorn

Millions of people are dying from diseases that are curable. Pathogens that barely phase a rich man’s body, destroy a poor man’s. Medicine that costs a Starbucks coffee to one, costs a year’s wages to another. Is this fair?

According to Margaret Whitehead, the disparities in health that are worth considering are those that are “unfair,” meaning that they are avoidable.  These include those that result from “exposure to unhealthy, stressful living and working conditions, inadequate access to essential health and other basic services, and health-damaging behaviors where the degree of choice of lifestyles is severely restricted,” in contrast to those that are a result of freely chosen, damaging behavior or genetic tendencies (Weber and Fore, pg 191). From a biased glance, many diseases in America are overlooked as “fair” because of the individual’s lifestyle. However, most of these people are victims of their social and economic prison in society.

Weber and Fore emphasize that in America, socioeconomic factors have huge consequences on health.  Social class severely determines quality of life and health decisions, the likelihood of catching diseases, and whether or not care is received (pg 193).  In America, the three top causes of mortality are heart disease, stroke and cancer, and these prevail in minorities and lower socioeconomic groups.  While high-class citizens both live in healthy environments and can afford treatment to diseases, lower class citizens live in disease contracting environments and cant afford help.  We live in a time where you can literally buy health.  Most diseases are curable with the right amount of money, but you have to have money. Lower class Americans are victims to a society that denies them health.

The unavailability of health due to lack of income is not just a problem in America, but a problem worldwide.  According to the national institute of health, “a strong relationship exists between poverty, an unhygienic environment, and the number and severity of diarrheal episodes.”*  Tied to poverty is poor housing, crowded, unsanitary living conditions, pathogens, and insufficient food and clean water.  All these factors beg for diseases such as diarrheal disease.  While diarrheal disease is easily curable, those that cannot afford water, certainly cannot afford medical care.  While old and young, poor and rich, alike are vulnerable to diarrheal disease, the poor live in an environment where health is simply not an option.

*   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11764/

Here’s a link to a video that features the prevention and treatment efforts against diarrheal disease

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