Is Discrimination Bad For Your Health?
Over the years, discrimination in the United States has included many types, including race, sex, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, and religion. All of these types and groups have been discriminated against over the years in our country.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act and various constitutional amendments have made significant strides and efforts to improve and eliminate discrimination at many levels of our society. Any discrimination tends to be damaging and can affect the mental and physical health of those affected. Discrimination is a civil rights issue but also a public health issue. We, as a society and as health care providers, must recognize the health implications and take action to correct and eliminate the effects of discrimination on our health and well-being. We hear a lot about racial discrimination, but I think it can and does sometimes affect all of the groups mentioned above.
Some examples of how discrimination can directly or indirectly affect the health of all groups are listed below:
Poor health and healthcare services
Inadequate mental health care
Increase in high school dropouts
Decreased access to health services
Decreased access to higher education
Access to leisure facilities
Exposure to crime, violence
There are a number of specific examples of physical and mental illnesses linked to discrimination, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, increased stress, breast cancer and mortality.
The solution and strategies to tackle the problem of discrimination and its effects on public health is something that we all need to consider. Discrimination can affect not only all of the groups listed at the beginning of this article, but can also be intentional and unintentional. Having all Americans aware of and understand the link between discrimination and poor health is the first step towards improvement and correction.
Educating everyone about this problem can help us correct it. It is important to discourage discrimination when it occurs and to encourage it when it does not. Government policies and laws have helped in the past and can do more in the future. Health professionals can work to recognize and correct the effects of discrimination in our society.
Public health measures and policies can do a lot to improve mental and physical health. Human rights, justice and equality are issues we all need to work on. Victims of discrimination must speak out and seek solutions and strategies. Most normal human beings are susceptible to prejudice in one way or another, but we all need to recognize that we are part of the human family. Every American should strive to reduce the effects of discrimination on the health of all Americans. We have to recognize “It could be me”.
Our new president mentioned in a speech that we all need help every now and then and we should all give help every now and then.
Great strides have been made in this country to reduce discrimination at all levels. Let’s all work together to reduce discrimination in our society and improve the health of all Americans.
Dr Eichelberger is retired from Greenwood Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Montgomery Family Practice Residency Program. He is a volunteer physician at Hospice and Palliative Care of the Piedmont. Send your comments to: The Doctor’s Prescription, PO Box 36, Ninety Six, SC 29666.