EFFECTS OF SOCIAL POLICIES ON HEALTH

Introduction

Social policy relates to different areas within a government or social setting in which policies affect people’s lives differently. The effects are felt regarding the availability of social services or the state welfare, all of which may be dictated by the ruling government. Some countries are governed by guidelines and legislations which automatically dictate the lifestyle of people in various regions of the particular country (Kawachi et al., 2002). Although social policies seek to explain the social life of individuals, it has a broad scope of effects even on health and the economic status of the entire country. Regarding healthcare, various concepts of social policy such as poverty lead to health disparities since access to healthcare becomes governed by the amount of money one has. As it is expected, the financially unstable end up getting substandard medical care while the best care is provided in healthcare facilities that charge expensively (George, 1998).

Many countries are faced with health disparities due to social policy concepts hence advocating for equal health services access has become a priority activity for such countries. The principle goal of attaining equality on health care services is to ensure that all groups within a state can get the best healthcare hence improving the population health. In so doing, an individual’s education level, location or income will not have an influence on the quality of healthcare they receive (Bambra et al., 2007).  In as much as that is the expected result, some strategies that are laid down to improve the health the less fortunate within the society lead to health disparities instead of eliminating them. For instance, improving the income of people does not automatically mean that they will start going for standard medical care. If they were used to their substandard one and they believed it worked for them, some of them will find spending too much on medical care as a waste of money (Leon et al., 2001). The rationale of this work is to critically analyze the effect of social policy on health disparities within and between various stated countries and regions.

Health Disparities Within

The United Kingdom

Health disparities in the UK result from the emphasis on the population category that seems to be enjoying life and health services. While carrying out statistical analysis of the state of the region, the growing gap between the fortunate and unfortunate within the society is underrated. As a result, there is the lack of equality among the citizens, yet it is evident that equal societies perform better than societies that have different individuals. Therefore, even as health services provision improves, there is a population that still experiences high annual mortality rates for people in lower local authority areas (Graham & Spengler, 2009). The local authority in which one lives in the UK also determines their lifespan since it is reported that the one with the highest life expectancy is the East Dorset while Blackpool has the lowest. In all these authorities, women are most susceptible to mortality rates due to low education or none at all as well as poor working conditions. It is, therefore, evident that the feminism theory best applies to the UK since women record the most deaths and suffer unemployment crises. Ideologically, the society perceives women as the people who should sit back at home and look after children without engaging in well-paying jobs as the men do. There should, therefore, be a social equality campaign for the women in this region. 

In this society, one’s psychological status may be influenced by the environment in which they live because there are divisions concerning the local authorities which surprisingly give a hint of the mortality rates. People who are born in such authorities tend to have a general feeling of being unfortunate since they have poor access to medical aids (George, 1998). Such people tend to relate the situation of their environment with their future life and may give up on maintaining healthy lives. In as much there is increased globalization in the region, the jobs created are only available for qualified and highly educated individuals hence, it is not guaranteed that the poor will then have access to the right jobs with adequate pay (Whitehead, 2007).Also, globalization is aimed at improving facilities as much as possible and not lowering their class. Therefore, globalization is intended to lead to the development of high-class hospitals which can only be accessed by rich people in the society. It is also not obvious that once the poor people have been given well-paying jobs, they will have access to the quality medical care in the well-established healthcare facilities (Kawachi et al., 2002).

The first solution towards reducing health disparities in the UK is by reducing the gaps between income distribution, and power and wealth allocation and acquisition (Liebig, 2012). If the situation is not appropriately dealt with, it leads to an enlarged circumference of the adverse effects it has on the society since there will be a general feeling of social equality. Freedom will also be manifested among all citizens since there will be no feeling of inferiority or slavery. It is due to the unequal economic status that there is an increase in activities that pose a danger to public health and social lives (Bambra et al., 2007). Due to their low literacy levels, most youths in the UK engage in drug and substance abuse to keep off unemployment stress. The drugs end up having detrimental effects on their health such that most of them develop liver cirrhosis, lung cancers among others (Liebig, 2012). The effects are also evident in their parents who develop cardiovascular infections due to their inability to control their youths. Additionally, as a result of the ill activities done in the neighborhood such as theft, authorities become reluctant of building better facilities including hospitals. The interrelationships of these actions elaborate the behavioral theory of social inequality and its effects on the health of individuals (Whitehead, 2007).

The United States of America

Although the US is considered a role model for many other countries of the world, the actual state of healthcare services does not represent excellent performance. The biggest problem with the US is that it suffers from the typical problems experienced by other regions such as income imbalance as well as racial discrimination (Quinn et al., 2011). Therefore, the racism theory is of great application to the health inequality experienced in the region. Reports show that some races are a higher risk of suffering from certain diseases unaided to an extent that they equally record high mortality rates. To begin with, health disparities in the US are as a result of differences in the levels of education among various individuals hence causing inequality (Liebig, 2012). Uneducated people are at a more risk of suffering from certain diseases and dying due to lack of understanding of their conditions (Kawachi et al., 2002). Educated people are in a better position to complement some disease conditions. Hence, they will tend to seek medical assistance promptly without delay. Since some diseases such as cancer are better managed when they are discovered early, getting to have some knowledge about them prolongs life and improves prognosis.

Similarly, it’s hard to seek medical assistance especially in circumstances when one does not have enough money; despite the fact that they are well educated and aware of the consequences of untreated illnesses (Graham & Spengler, 2009). Such a situation may occur to individuals who migrate the US in search of jobs and end up not getting any. They end up living substandard lives in the suburbs where they acquire illnesses that need the expensive medical care of which they cannot afford. For such individuals, it cannot be assumed that they suffered and died due to lack of knowledge (Bambra et al., 2007). The US is also split into two socioeconomic statuses of two groups comprising of the rich and the have-nots. An individual’s status also dictates the kind of medical services they will be able to access such that the wealthy can obtain expensive and efficient services which the poor cannot afford. Furthermore, the different status also predisposes Americans to diseases such as diabetes and cancers (Whitehead, 2007). While the rich live sedentary lives, they are likely to suffer from obesity which predisposes them to type II diabetes mellitus which has been shown to be manifested even in children. Those from the lower socioeconomic status are likely to engage in risky behaviors such as alcohol intake and smoking. Such people are predisposed to liver cirrhosis, lung cancer as well as contracting HIV (Bambra et al., 2007).

There is also a direct relationship between income and race in the US whereby the whites have more income than the blacks. As a result, mortality rates of blacks are slightly higher than those of the whites; a situation that is explained by the ability of the whites to monitor their health carefully in high-quality healthcare facilities. America shows an outstanding disparity between the whites and the blacks even in healthcare access (Liebig, 2012). It is for this reason that there is a high prevalence of black Americans dying of certain diseases as compared to the whites. Using the Marxism theory, racial discrimination in America is linked to the historical slavery that occurred in northeastern American cotton and textile industries (Nyarko et al., 2013).These industries flourished due to the labor that was being provided by the black Africans who worked as slaves. It was during this period that racism cropped up because there was an attempt to segregate the slaves from the natives completely. With time, there were inequalities in various aspects of life between the white and black Americans; including property ownership and access to various facilities such as health. Analysis of the slavery cascade can clearly elaborate the effects of race on health which are observable in America (Quinn et al., 2011). Therefore, the effects of racial discrimination in health in America are as it is because they got used to stratification during the slave trade. Up-to-date, most Americans know that there is a problem in their health sector, but they are uncertain about the actions that can be taken to solve them (Bambra et al., 2007). Although there are psychosocial influences on the black Americans, I think that when one has money, he/she will not be prevented from accessing the best medical care he/she desires.

South Africa

The political set up of South Africa also affected the health status, and the transition is slowly changing to adopt a reasonable and equal being. Health disparities in this country are attributed to the Marxism theory with which the effects of apartheid can be related to the current situation. The country transited from an apartheid government during the colonial reign to a liberal one after independence. However, the effects of apartheid and whatever used to be considered normal during that time will take the time to fade away completely (Bratter & Gorman, 2011). Apartheid explained a rule whereby there was also racial discrimination by the ruling National party which belonged to the ruling whites’ regime. There was a partition among the various races that were represented in the country which is black, white, Asians and other races. Provision of services was given concerning priority whereby the whites were considered more important hence received the best care (Quinn et al., 2011). These rules were applicable in all areas of a citizen, the health sector included. Regarding the healthcare system due to the effects of apartheid, the blacks were given limited access to the medical aid as well as being totally ignored even when some of them required emergency medical interventions. If they went for the medical checkup, there was a distortion of information from the medical practitioners such that there was a lack of openness in the exact condition one suffered from. Those who were mentally ill were greatly mistreated, and human rights were not adhered to in encounters with such people (Bratter & Gorman, 2011).

The health disparities that were evident during the apartheid reign left a similar situation that is a current situation in the country (Kawachi et al., 2002). South Africa has two systems of healthcare which create segregation between the people who can access each. The existence of the two systems can be explained by the neoliberalism theory which enables distinction of the sector that receives more economic support. One of South Africa’s health systems is the one that is to a large extent publicly funded hence it is affordable for many citizens of the country.  The other system comprises of the privately owned healthcare facilities in which services are very expensive such that they are mainly used by Asians and Whites (Bratter & Gorman, 2011). The private healthcare services may be considered well equipped due to the control of the economic status of the country which drives more attention to the private sector.  Although this may be termed as a reflection of the segregation that occurred during apartheid, no one can be prohibited to access the private healthcare facilities so long as he/she can afford the cost. In South Africa, patients who are privately insured enjoy a subsidized fee of accessing medical care due to their contribution to the sector (Graham & Spengler, 2009).

Health Disparities Between

The UK, USA, and South Africa all face health disparities due to a common reason for differences in the socioeconomic status of their citizens. In all the three regions, it is evident that people with low income are likely to receive poor medical services in poorly maintained healthcare facilities (Whitehead, 2007). To some extent, this may not be the reason for high mortality rates among the poor because the treatment for some common diseases such as malaria is the same both in public and privately owned hospitals. The cause of high mortality rates in the regions could mainly be due to ignorance and lack of adequate knowledge. At the same time, health disparities in South Africa may differ with those experienced in USA and UK due to the development status of the three regions (Bratter & Gorman, 2011). USA and UK are perceived to have more qualified personnel in hospitals and with high-quality equipment as compared to those within the African continent. Therefore, people who think they are receiving substandard treatment in USA and UK may be receiving the best care as perceived by Africans (Quinn et al., 2011).

Although there is racial discrimination both in South Africa and the USA, the contributing factors to the situation differ in the two regions. While in South Africa it was due to colonial effect, it was due to slavery in the USA. Similarly, although the UK has a centralized government system which defines how services are provided, some states exhibit a separate system (Kawachi et al., 2002). States such as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their way of offering services which differ from that stipulated by the central government. Regarding administration, Scotland and Northern Ireland have different policies that are not similar to those in England or Wales. Some of these policies include some health guidelines which are aimed to improve the health of citizens of individual countries through their representatives in the central government (George, 1998).

Impact of Globalization on Social Policy and Health

Globalization refers to a situation whereby there are international exchange and integration of ideas to come up with advanced ways of carrying out various activities. As per the information provided by the IMF, globalization is always accompanied by four concepts which are a migration of people, trade, knowledge dissemination as well as trade (Graham & Spengler, 2009). Therefore, globalization poses an impact on the health of individuals regarding the concepts stated above. For instance, due to globalization, there is an increased migration of people from the undeveloped and developing countries to those that are already developed. The migration poses a health effect regarding the possibility of redistributing diseases such as tuberculosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome and even HIV (George, 1998).

Developed countries also will not accept the burden that is accompanied by taking care of the unhealthy people who may be migrating into their country. Globalization also states newer ways of producing and packaging products which may be of harmful effects to consumers. When such products are exported to countries that are underdeveloped, they are likely to cause health hazards since some of them may not have received adequate testing (Whitehead, 2007). However, the fear of globalization causing diseases should not be considered a threat because it is due to the same concept that newer technological ways of disease diagnosis and treatment are designed. In as much there may be rapid spread of infections due to increased migrations, WHO should coordinate with other technologies to find ways of responding to emergency conditions (Bambra et al., 2007).  

Conclusion

Social policy is a significant contributor towards health disparities in various countries and regions globally. It affects both the developed and developing countries hence leading to a poor health balance between different social classes. Different concepts of social policy such as poverty and level of education have been discussed in this paper and their relationship with health disparities elaborated. Psychosocial effects on the underprivileged in the society are a major contributing factor towards health disparities. Differences in income among various groups and stratification on racial grounds have also been established as contributing factors towards unfair treatment in the health sector.

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