Socioeconomic Status and Health. Socioeconomic Status (SES) refers to an individual’s or group’s position withina hierarchical social structure. It is dependent on a combination of variables, of which the most significant are occupation, education, income, wealth and place of residence (The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition, 2002). Various studies have shown that a persons’ health is not determined only by his genetic make-up, personal habits and exposure to disease, but is also the result of his SES (Phelan and Link). Low SES has been shown to increase the prevalence of premature deaths, hospitalization, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, cancer of the lungs, cervix and stomach and Type 2 diabetes. It also increases the risk of mental illness.
Of all the socioeconomic variables, it is poverty which is the underlying cause for the others. The high cost of education and technology put them beyond the reach of the poor. Consequently, the poor are ignorant about the health benefits of nutritious diets and physical activity and lack information about available medical treatments. Their place of residence tends to be crowded, polluted and lacking in hygiene and clean water. Their low income occupations are usually more likely to cause exposure to toxins and pollutants. They have less access to quality health care and supportive social networks.
Therefore, health disparities cannot be reduced without first reducing social inequalities and improving the SES of the disadvantaged.
National Health Insurance.
Universal health care ensures that all citizens of a country pay for, and are assured access to, health care. Health care can be provided directly by the Government, as in the United Kingdom, or through the provision of health insurance. The United States spends more than twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, but, unlike them, does not have National Health Insurance. While federal laws mandate free access to emergency services for all and
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