Voluntary and Involuntary Factors.

Voluntary and Involuntary Factors.

SES is related to health disparities, and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately found in lower socioeconomic levels. An important exception is the “ Hispanic Epidemiologic Paradox.” This refers to the fact that new Hispanic immigrants are found to have generally better health than U.S.-born individuals of the same SES (Alliance for Health Reform, 2010).

Another way to frame the causes of health disparities is via the factors affecting health that were identified in the 1974 Lalonde report, “ A New Perspective on the Health of Canadians.” This report probably was the first acknowledgment by a major industrialized country that health is determined by more than biological factors. The report led to the development of the “ health field” concept, which identified four health fields that were interdependently responsible for individual health:

1. Environment. All matters related to health external to the human body and over which the individual has little or no control. Includes the physical and social environment.

Socioeconomic status (SES) is one of the most important predictors of health. Socioeconomic status is typically measured by educational attainment, income, wealth, occupation, or a combination of these factors. In general, the higher one’s SES, the better one’s health (Alliance for Health Reform, 2010). Socioeconomic status is thought to affect health in many ways, such as by increasing access to health-enhancing resources, access to health care, and living in healthier neighborhoods.

Most experts agree that the causes of health disparities are multiple and complex; no single factor
explains why disparities exist across such a wide range of health measures. Access to health care and the quality of health care are important factors, but they do not explain why some groups experience greater risks for poor health in the first place (Alliance for Health Reform, 2010).

Causes of Health Disparities Health disparities exist due to both voluntary and involuntary factors. Voluntary factors related to health behaviors, such as smoking and diet, can be avoided. Factors such as genetics, living and working in unhealthy conditions, limited or no access to health care, and language barriers are often viewed as involuntary factors because they are not within that person’s control.

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