domingo, 23 de febrero de 2014

Unhealthy men vs. unhealthy economy in America

The current health care system in the United States has been highly criticized for several reasons. A severe flaw that has raised many eyebrows and has been a hot topic in political discussions is the fact that a large number of individuals are being excluded from the system; this may be due to social inequalities or citizenship/alien status but it is a fact that the state of health oscillates between different groups of people. A study carried out for four years at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health discovered that men from minority groups in the US are a larger burden to the health economy of the country. Black and Hispanic men account for over $450 billion of excess medical costs due to health inequalities. In the study, the researchers estimated  that $24.2 billion was spent for direct medical costs for African Americans but found  no direct medical excess costs for Hispanics or other races; however, they calculated that about $317.6 billion came from indirect costs related to lower worker productivity due to illness and premature death for blacks and $115 billion for Hispanics.(1)
The study was performed using data from the years 2006 to 2009; therefore, it is clear that the old health care system was still running and the ACA had not yet stepped in. This means that the costs being discussed may represent a selected population that was at disadvantage due to the fact that the people may have lacked heath care insurance and could not use the proper services to live a healthy life style, thus leading to a higher chance of getting ill, using emergency services, not being productive workers and taking a toll on the economy via welfare programs, decreased tax revenue and less social security earnings.(2)

Now, with Obamacare, there is a hope that some of the economic pressure will be taken off in the health care sector and in the US economy overall since more people will be covered to receive primary care attention and specialized attention; less will use emergency services which are the most costly. A report provided by the department of health and human services informs that since the enrollment opened up back in October, more than 3 million people have signed up for affordable coverage(3) so far which is a good start. It is definitely not the number that the government was aiming for—7 million was the goal by March of this year.(4) This, however, can be a breath of fresh air since it will help diminish some of the social inequalities that have been present for several years to a certain degree. Below is a graph which depicts the increasing enrollment results in the last 4 months. 

        Source: Department of Health and Human Services

There are still many projects to be developed in order to decrease health disparities among American men, especially coming from minority groups—not only projects that affect the country as a collective group, but projects that actually involve and affect individuals at a personal level; helping them be attentive about their well-being and taking responsibility over illnesses that may not be significant but that can later be detrimental to their life.  

There needs to be a “social policy reform that is inclusive of males and their unique issues will allow for the tide to take its due course.” (2)

By Ma. Paula Zapata

1.           Brott A, Dougherty A, Williams ST, Matope JH, Fadich A, Taddelle M. The economic burden shouldered by public and private entities as a consequence of health disparities between men and women. Am. J. Mens. Health [Internet]. 2011 Nov [cited 2014 Feb 20];5(6):528–39. Available from:
2.           Leone JE, Rovito MJ. “Normative content” and health inequity enculturation: a logic model of men’s health advocacy. Am. J. Mens. Health [Internet]. 2013 May [cited 2014 Feb 20];7(3):243–54. Available from:
3.           ASPE Office of Health Policy. HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE: FEBRUARY ENROLLMENT REPORT [Internet]. 2014 p. 53. Available from:
4.           Politico. Joe Biden: Obamacare enrollment may miss mark. Politico [Internet]. Minneapolis; 2014 Feb 19; Available from:

2 comentarios:

  1. Hi Paula, in deed, the reform might decrease the health disparities. However, I wonder if, in fact, the US is adopting a primary care model taking into account the lack of experience for this practice. I think that a community perspective in primary health care will help this reform to reach the goals

  2. Thank you for your comment, Eduardo. The US does in fact have a primary care model. Unfortunately, it is not as efficient as it is in other countries. There is still a huge gap in the number of primary care providers available to serve the entire population; therefore, it is imperative that the system focuses on this aspect and motivates physicians to serve in primary care, I can only imagine that the number of healthier individuals would increase greatly.