Disparities in the Health of Children
There has been much research that verifies the existence of health disparities among different socioeconomic groups and different racial and ethnic groups. I will take a look at this research to determine why these disparities exist and how these effect the education among those who experience it.
When we consider the education of our children in the United States, we must consider their health as a significant issue as it can positively or negatively impact a student’s education. It has generally been acknowledged that there is a great disparity in our country in the area of health care. Healthy People2010, a published report put out by the Health and Human Services Division of the Unites States Government (2000) has included as part of its Goals for 2010, to eliminate health disparities among different segments of the population. According to this report, health differences occur depending on a persons gender, race or ethnicity, education or income, disability, rural locality, or sexual orientation. In this paper, I will mostly concentrate on racial and ethnic differences as well as socioeconomic differences. According to the Healthy People 2010 report, biological and genetic differences do not explain the health disparities experienced by non-White populations in the United States. Besides “complex interaction among genetic variations, environmental factors, and specific health behaviors,” Health and Human Services says, “inequalities in income and education underlie many health disparities in the United States.” Also, “population groups that suffer the worst health status are also those that have the highest poverty rates and least education.” Health, United States (1998) reported that each increase of income or education increased the likelihood of being in good health. According to this report, those with less education tend to die younger than those with more education for all major causes of death including chronic diseases, communicable diseases and injuries.
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There are several factors that account for differences between socioeconomic and racial and ethnic groups. These factors include a lower sedentary life style, cigarette smoking and less likely to have health insurance coverage or receive preventive care among these groups.
Those who live more sedentary life styles are at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, all things that effect lower-socioeconomic groups more often than those in higher income brackets.
Those who are less educated are also twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as the most educated. Everybody knows the risks of cigarette smoking nowadays, such as lung cancer, emphysema, higher Sudden Infant Death Syndrome rates among children whose mothers smokes while pregnant, etc, etc.
The socioeconomic status of children is definitely a determinant of their health, according to the HHS report (1998).
A less-educated mother is more likely to have children with low birth-weight and infant mortality than a more educated mother. Mothers who dropped out of high school are 50% more likely to have low birth-weight babies than those mothers who finished college.
Lead poisoning is much higher, seven times, in children from poor families and non-White families than high-income White families, especially among blacks.
Insurance coverage and access care for preventive services and regular doctor visits vary according to socioeconomic status as well. According to HHS (1998), insurance coverage made a real difference for poor children in terms of access to health care. Among all poor children under six years of age, 21% of those without health insurance had no usual source of care compared with 4% of poor children covered by insurance.
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All of these factors are bound to have an impact on the health and thus, education of children who come from low socioeconomic and non-White groups. Children are especially effected by all of these factors.
Separate research by Flores, Bauchner, Feinstein and Ngyuen (1999) looks at children in particular. Their study concentrated on Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban, African American, Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander and White children and compare their health, as reported by parents. They determined that Puerto Rican, Mexican, African American, Native Americans and Asian/ Pacific Islander children all have overall poorer health than their White peers. They found that these children saw a physician less often, spent more time in bed for illness, were hospitalized more often, and were rated generally in poorer health compared to White children.
Flores, Bauchner and Feinstein accounted for these discrepancies not to just a lack of health care insurance coverage. Many of these children were fully insured. They accounted these disparities to several things. Cultural differences, unable to communicate with health personnel because of language differences, folk illness and parental beliefs, as well as provider practices were the reasons they attributed to health disparities among minority status children. Much of the other research tends to agree that a lack of education about health issues is a part of the problem.
All of these factors can help explain the health disparities between socioeconomic and racial and ethnic groups but they cannot excuse it. Secondary factors are that these children suffer in school as well. Most of the research talks about the lack of education accounting for low health. I did not find any research that talked about how ill health impacts a child’s education. Maybe partly, because it seems so obvious. Yet, it needs to be discussed. Days missed because of illness, days spent in the school infirmary and, days spent in class not feeling well because a parent does not have health insurance or cannot take off work to take their children to a doctor, account for missed days of learning. Parents cannot give their children the same type of or as much information that parents from better educated homes can give to their children. Thus, the cycle continues.
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The less education, the poorer the health, the poorer health, the less education.
There are several agencies out there that are doing several things to combat the problem, however. The disparity comes closer to being resolved with a combination of resources provided to those being affected by it and education. Health and Human Services is on the forefront of both of these lines of defense. Every city and state has a Health and Human Services department that provides means and resources for access to healthcare and education on health and nutrition practices for those who need it. That should be the first place that anyone wanting to seek out equal accessibility to healthcare should go. The toll free number to call to reach the DHHS in California is 1(877) 696-6775. Another good link to find out about health disparities and how to combat them is at http://www.minority.unc.edu/. There are also several low-cost health care centers in most any community. School counselor and nurse offices should have this information on hand.
In conclusion, disparities in health among socioeconomic and racial and ethnic groups are a real problem that needs to be addressed. There is much research that verifies the existence of these disparities. Much of the research identifies the lack of education in lower socioeconomic groups as a reason for poorer health. There isn’t as much research that identifies how these health disparities effect student’s education. It is obvious, however, that poorer health would obviously lead to a poor education. It is promising that Clinton’s administration has addressed these issues by including them in the National Health Goals for 2010. There has been some criticism of these goals, however, as being far over-reaching and inconsiderate of what it entails. There are others who have criticized is as not going far enough in combating disparities in healthcare. A national agenda that addresses healthcare disparities puts the issue squarely in the public eye, however. That is where it should be until we see a movement in the right direction for access to healthcare equally and for all, especially for the future of the education of our children.
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Flores, G., Bauchner, H., Feinstein, A., Nguyen, U., (1999).
The impact of ethnicity, family income, and parental education on children’s health and use of health services. American Journal (89), 7. 1066-1071.
Healthy People 2010. (2000).
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/healthypeople
Health Care Strategic Management, (1998), Socioeconomic status has definite impact on health status. (16), 10. 8-9. Chicago.
Minority Health Project, (2000).
School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://www.minority.unc.edu/