Health is a condition of emotional, physical and social well being in which infirmity and disease are absent. The concept of health is most commonly associated with the prevention of illness and its management but more than that is involves teaching healthy behaviors to improve health and reduce health-threatening conditions. A healthy lifestyle not only prevents illness but also gives you the confidence to face the world.
One of the biggest health disparities exists in the mental health and wealth gaps between disadvantaged black Americans and wealthier, white Americans. There is an enormous difference in the quality of life and health indicators among the two groups, even when controlling for prevalent medical conditions. Mental health has been recognized as an important indicator of overall health and disability; as such, early detection of any potential mental health issues and use of effective therapies and support services can provide enormous benefits for people suffering from any form of mental health disorder.
Despite the fact that the United States has made great progress in providing equal opportunity in education, employment and health care, there are still significant health disparities that affect people of color, poor people and women and have no satisfactory explanation. The largest and most pressing health disparities in the country relate to health care, with people of color and poor people experiencing greater health care gaps than those who are wealthier. In particular, the uninsured suffer the largest health care gaps in the country, especially with regard to health insurance coverage. Health insurance has been called the “silent killer” due to the very high rates of people without coverage, especially women of color and people living in the poorer communities.
Health equity refers to the health differences experienced by racial and ethnic groups. Although the United States has made great strides toward the goal of health equity, there are still pockets of health disparity that affect people of color and other vulnerable minorities. By ensuring access to quality health services, combating public health stigma and promoting healthy lifestyles, programs such as AIDS and HIV prevention, quality health equity research and programs for universal health care may provide a greater sense of social and economic justice for all.
The promotion of human rights and the advancement of human rights should be a strong tool for promoting health equity and combating health disparities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations’ International Treating Commission (ITC) are the bodies that define and monitor human rights throughout the world. These international human rights agreements lay down guidelines for the protection of the health and rights of every individual, including people of color and other vulnerable groups. For example, the rights defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights include freedom of speech and other expression as well as the right to peaceful assembly and association. Other important human rights agreements in the United States include the African Human Rights Act, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the World Trade Organization Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Related Agreements and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Disparities in health could stem from many different factors, including historical racial and economic inequality, social status differences and other factors that might be beyond our control. However, the greatest barrier to achieving true health equity is our own biases and thoughts regarding health, which prevent us from effectively sharing information that could prove to be a turning point for improvement. It is important for all of us to be open and honest with ourselves and others when it comes to discussing health differences and how these can impact us and how we can improve our health. If we can work together to create policies and programs that improve health for all, then we can all feel better about ourselves and live with greater confidence in our health and our lives.