“their” problem, people are not going to see themselves as being part of the solution.
Workshop attendee Marian Dennis followed up by noting that health disparities are the result of socioeconomic determinants of health, driven in large part by poverty. With regard to framing the issue, disparities in health are not limited to ethnic and racial minorities, but also affect a significant number of people in the United States who face poverty. She suggested that there is a currently a window of opportunity to start a movement because many people who didn’t think of themselves as vulnerable are now becoming more vulnerable. Many people who have viewed themselves as middle class are worried about losing their jobs and homes.
The struggles facing immigrants were raised by another participant, who said they want the best for their families but often cannot afford health care or insurance, or education beyond public school.
In closing, Lurie noted that the impending recession has the potential to make disparities much greater. With the many current discussions about race and gender and politics, Lurie said that disparities in health are not about Republicans and Democrats, or men and women. It is, in part, a generational issue. It is about what our country and the world are going to be like for our children. That is really the theme of the workshop, she said. The way we invest in our children has incredible implications for the health of our country, the well-being of our citizens, the productivity of our country, global competitiveness, and America’s place in the world. What happens in the womb, and in the early years of life, have a great impact on lifelong health. Lurie noted that it behooves all of us to bring these issues into the public discourse. She cited the PBS video series presented by Thompson as an important step in this direction. Lurie urged participants to be active in their own communities, including bringing up these issues with local candidates, regardless what level of office they are running for. Challenge people to think about creative solutions, she said. Let people know that there is a movement coming and that they need to get on board.