Unnatural Causes: Feminism and Health Care

Health care reform is on everyone’s radar these days after we’ve watched Obama’s plan go through change after change before being passed this year. It’s been on my radar as a feminist because of the ways that it affects women and their bodies, especially pertaining to the right to choose. Recently, though, a new aspect of healthcare in the U.S. has been brought to my attention that I’m very concerned about, and I was looking for the feminist community’s reaction.

The disturbing aspect is this: unequal societies have worse health outcomes than healthier societies no matter their health care systems. Unequal is defined as having a larger gap between the rich and the poor. The data are represented in a bazillion places – life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, the list goes on. The website based on a PBS video talks about this issue, especially how it pertains to the U.S., who is consistently ranked LOW, LOW, LOW on the health scale despite our huge economic power.

Unnatural Causes Trailer

And the facts about United States Health Care... Per person, the U.S. spends more than twice the average of other industrialized countries on health care - 16% of our GDP in 2006 - yet has some of the worst health outcomes: worse than 28 other countries in life expectancy (including Jordan) and 29 other countries in infant mortality (including Slovenia).

People in the highest income group can expect to live, on average, at least six and a half years longer than those in the lowest. Even those in the middle (families of four making $41,300 to $82,600 a year in 2007) will die, on average, two years sooner than those at the top.

College graduates can expect to live at least five years longer than those who have not finished high school, and almost two years longer than those who didn’t finish college.

For all the rich countries for which there is data, the U.S. has: - the highest infant mortality rate - the highest homicide rate - the highest teenage birth rate - the highest incarceration rate (we house one fourth of the world’s prisoners) - the highest child poverty rate - the highest child injury death rate - the greatest gap between high and low mortality rates within a country - the highest number of people living alone - the highest poverty rate - the most hours worked (except for New Zealand) - the smallest middle class - the largest wealth gap between the rich and the rest of the population - the lowest voter turnout

As we as feminists know, the people who are often the victims of this health inequality are people of color and the poor. And, as feminists, our goal is the destruction of dominating power structures and the elimination of inequality. What is the community’s response to the knowledge that our health care is ineffective? That being a person of color in the U.S. kills? How can a feminist community respond as allies?

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Kirsten M
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