While politicians are debating healthcare reform, administrators in healthcare organizations are working to reduce health disparities. Health organizations are implementing unique solutions to mitigate the current crisis of health inequality in the United States.
From founding nonprofit hospitals to joining forces with organizations in a variety of industries, healthcare organizations may hold the key to solving health inequality.
Multiple factors have an effect on life expectancy, including income, education, occupation, race and ethnicity, and health disparities.
Varying levels of income can create a substantial gap in life expectancy for both men and women. The gap between men with disparate income levels is 15 years, and the gap between women is 10 years.
Achieving a higher level of educational is connected to a lower mortality rate for men and women alike.
A number of stress-inducing occupational factors can influence life expectancy, as well, including job insecurity, long hours, shift work, lack of health insurance, unemployment, layoffs and work-family conflict.
Race and ethnicity also have an impact on life expectancy. African Americans live approximately five years less than white males on average. However, white adults in the United States have a wider gap in mortality than minority groups.
Disparities in healthcare among poor Americans are amplified by substandard care, poor housing and deteriorated environments. Poorer Americans are more likely to be impacted by accidents, violence, drug overdoses, suicide and smoking as well.
Culture affects clinical encounters, requiring skills to address possible differences in communication. Regrettably, many healthcare professionals lack the necessary cultural awareness to treat diverse patients.
Life Expectancy at Birth by Country
Life expectancy can vary considerably based on the country a person lives in. Here’s how the United States compares to several other nations in average lifespan.
Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies, with the average person in Japan living to be 83.4 years old.
Many European countries also have relatively high life expectancies. The average lifespan at birth for a person in Spain is 83.2 years. The United Kingdom and Portugal each have a respective life expectancy of 81.1 and 80.8 years.
However, the average lifespan for a person in the United States is 78.8 years. While this is higher than China’s life expectancy of 75.4 years and Russia’s life expectancy of 70.7 years, the United States still lags behind many other developed countries in relation to life expectancy.
Nonprofit Hospitals: Myth or Reality?
A nonprofit hospital can fight health inequality in a multitude of ways. Whether they’re caring for patients without compensation or building a sense of community, nonprofit hospitals do make a difference in their neighborhoods.
The 4,974 US community hospitals in 2014 were 78 percent nonprofit, 58 percent private and 20 percent operated by local or state governments.
The highest-earning nonprofit hospital in 2013 was Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center. This La Crosse, Wisconsin-based hospital earned $302.5 million over the course of the year.
By engaging in a number of community oriented activities, nonprofit hospitals may maintain an exemption from paying federal income tax. These activities may include offering charity care and uncompensated care as well as participating in community building and community health improvement.
How Nonprofit Hospitals Are Benefiting Communities
Boston Children’s Community Asthma Initiative (CAI) has profoundly influenced its local community.
One of CAI’s programs involves having nurses partner with schools, day care centers and community organizations to provide asthma education for parents and caregivers.
After the program was established, local hospitals noticed an 80 percent reduction in the percentage of patients admitted one or more times for asthma-related issues. Hospitals also reported a 60 percent reduction in the percentage of patients with asthma-related visits to the emergency department in 2011.
How Healthcare Administrations Are Fighting Health Inequality
By taking advantage of collaborations across industries, healthcare professionals can reduce health inequality. However, the organization itself must make the first effort to bring about positive change.
Tips for Health Organizations to Improve Health Equity
Understand that achieving health equality requires more than any single intervention. Framing health interventions and health status within the context of society is essential.
Keep channels of communication open to encourage an honest dialogue. Discussing how racism and personal biases affect health inequality can help health organizations be a positive force for change.
Find partners in other sectors. Working with agencies in the child care, education, employment, environmental quality, housing, law enforcement and transportation sectors makes reducing health disparities a community effort.
Track data but don’t forget about other community issues. Being mindful and prepared for any issues that may impact the health of the community is important.
Inspire the community to participate. Engaging the community is key for successfully establishing public health initiatives.
Establish a process. Creating, implementing and following a process is essential before an initiative can be successful.
Be conscious of limitations. Knowing when to enlist the help of workers from the local community can help healthcare organizations fill pressing needs.
Health practitioners must realize that despite their educational attainment or other competencies, they may not be prepared to deliver care within every cultural context. Local communities must hold every process, strategy and initiative accountable for the sake of reducing health disparities. This is the first step toward making a lasting impact.