If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:4:01

Health and healthcare disparities in the US

Video transcript

- When we talk about health and healthcare in the U.S. I think that we would all like to imagine that everyone gets the same high quality of care, but this actually isn't the case. And a lot of the disparities that we see within the healthcare system in the U.S. are the result of poor economic and environmental conditions. And I have "SES" written here, and that stands for socioeconomic status. And if we think about social class, we can think about it in terms of a pyramid, where we have the highest income and educational levels at the top and the lowest at the bottom. And as we go up this social pyramid, we see that access to healthcare gets better, and the quality of that healthcare also improves. And, related to this, the health of those people at the top of the pyramid tends to be better as well. But the opposite is actually true for those at the bottom of the pyramid, and there are a number of reasons as to why this might be. First of all, high quality medical services are more likely to be located in wealthy communities, as opposed to poor areas or rural areas. Disease is also more likely to spread within crowded living conditions. And substandard housing might not properly protect people from the elements. Also, having a poor diet could significantly impact a person's health, and this is especially true for those living in food deserts, which are areas that have a lot of access to fast food but have almost no access to supermarkets or fresh produce. Individuals with a lower SES are also more likely to take jobs that put them in dangerous environments, which could lead to accidents. They are also more likely to take jobs that involve significant health risks. As an example of both of these things, miners work in very dangerous conditions and are also at a high risk for conditions like black lung disease, which can result from breathing in the coal dust. Also, individuals with a lower SES simply can't afford expensive treatments and prescriptions. Race can also play a large role in healthcare equality. African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans tend to have higher morbidity rates, or higher rates of disease and illness, as well as mortality rates, or death rates. They also tend to have worse access to healthcare, and the healthcare that they do receive tends to be of lower quality. And although some or maybe even many of the racial differences that we see in healthcare can be attributed to the causes that we listed when we talked about SES, it does not explain everything that we see. Even when economic differences and even types of insurance are taken into account, minorities are still less likely to receive both everyday standard healthcare as well as treatments for life threatening conditions. There are also many important gender differences in health and healthcare. For example, men typically utilize fewer preventative services, like vaccines and checkups, even when they are available to them. Women require reproductive services, and unfortunately sometimes access to these services are reduced because of politics and local laws. And while a lot of attention is placed on finding treatments for conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, often these studies focus on men and don't always include women. And since symptoms of diseases can differ by gender, women can suffer from this lack of medical research. Another group that suffers from healthcare disparities is the LGBT community. These individuals might face discrimination from healthcare workers, which can often limit the clinics that they feel comfortable seeking help from. Transgender individuals especially may face a lot of discrimination from within the healthcare system. And they might find a hard time finding a healthcare provider who has experience working with transgender individuals and can cater to their needs, and this can lead them to be reluctant to obtain services when they really need them.