BY BEMSI WALLANG – Minorities and residents of low-income communities tend to have disproportionate access to adequate healthcare and often lack helpful information regarding health and wellness that those in more affluent areas use to their benefit. These healthcare disparities work to solidify the pre-existing barriers between the classes of our stratified society, leaving us more disconnected, divided, and unreachable.

For example, consumerism trends are directly influenced by availability, and if there are more Walmarts in an area than Whole Foods and Sprouts chains, what kind of food will the members of that community tend to eat, and what kind of health profile will these members tend to carry as a result of the foods they consume?

We are so quick to call our minority population lazy and reluctant to change, yet we are so hesitant to offer them solutions to get there. Maybe black men wouldn’t have the highest rate of heart attacks if they weren’t rhetorically, culturally, and commercially manipulated to eat foods that stimulate and regulate the vicious cycle which keeps them there. Why aren’t we aware of the differences and why can’t we recognize them as ethnic issues? These are ethnic, racial issues. It’s a matter of limited to no access for extended periods of time and what that does to a group of people. It’s a social experiment; a medical, social, experiment. According to Forbes contributor Dr. Robert Pearl, the health care disparity that our minority population deals with costs the country $60 billion each year, and that minorities experience “30-40% poorer health outcomes than white Americans,” including their higher susceptibility to diseases and death. 

We should consider the chemicals and endocrine disruptors that come into play as well. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals or substances that alter the functioning and effectiveness of the body’s endocrine system, which is a network of glands that secrete hormones which regulate the developmental, neurological, and reproductive systems of the body, among other things. Endocrine disruptors like bPA (bisphenol-A) and phthalates are rampant in products like plastics and canned foods. Exposure to such chemicals have dangerous repercussions, including dangerous effects on reproduction, hormonal regulation, and metabolism.  Some EDCs mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, and these environmental EDCs can lead to breast cancer. When a certain group of people cannot afford to buy and eat healthy foods with known, reliable sources it is expected for them to be exposed to these chemicals, often without their knowledge. This affirms the dire, present need for health advocacy and education in low-income areas. The ignorance is only perpetuating trends and leaving more people more sick. A study lead by Leonardo Transande of the New York University School of Medicine supports this, stating that “different racial/ethnic groups use phthalate-containing shampoos and lotions differently, or use products containing different [phthalate] mixes”.

As future medical providers, there is hope for the betterment of this matter, and there are many ways that we can help. Low-income and minority communities are not just in need of our attention; they are in need of our commitment and care. It’s unsettling how reluctant so many of us are to truly making changes in these areas. The damage that has been done to them repels us, but why are we repelled from making changes as well? Intentional, designed ethnic issues are inescapable in the United States, but we are more than equipped and more than capable of working towards their resolutions. The National Health Service Corps offers loan repayment incentives to doctors who commit to practice in underserved communities. A four year commitment to serve in a targeted area is all that it takes to get all four years of your medical training paid for. It shouldn’t take an incentive to drive the work that really takes genuineness of heart, but this program is serving communities and changing lives. If we could simply approach this issue in a humane light, dwell on the people in the areas rather than the areas themselves, and be more forward thinking in our strategies, much more people could be reached to. We are more than able.