Technology has enabled the expansion of medicine and has improved the overall health of the global population. However, not all people have the same access to quality health care inequalities in health include differences in rates of disease, health outcomes, and access to health care.
Often, inequalities in health are the result of social inequalities. Differences in socioeconomic and environmental factors may present barriers to entering the health care system, resulting in varying degrees of quality care.
It has been shown that wealth is correlated with longevity, indicating a link between socioeconomic status, and mortality. In the nineteenth century, risk factors that accounted for inequality in health outcomes included overcrowding, poor sanitation, and the availability of local treatment facilities.
These risk factors have all but disappeared in the industrialized world. So why do disparities in health care still exist? Although modern hospitals and treatment centers are now widespread across the developed world, not everyone can afford treatment.
Compounding this issue, detrimental behaviors such as poor diet, inadequate exercise, and smoking are higher in populations with lower socioeconomic status. Furthermore, people of high socioeconomic status generally have better continuity of care, fewer costs of complying with treatment regimens, and more knowledge about their care inequalities.
For example, women with higher income and education levels tend to have better health insurance, increased awareness, and the ability to take time to regularly visit their doctor, and so receive more screenings for cervical and breast cancer.
In addition to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, mental illness, and disability are also major factors contributing to inequalities in health. Understanding why inequalities have persisted despite significant advancements in healthcare is an important step forward in reducing healthcare inequalities.
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