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Barriers to Healthcare

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Robyn is a biomedical genetics student & healthcare worker. She shares what she learns so that more people can be informed too.

My B.S. was in Health, and on top of my experience in healthcare, I have been a witness to the many barriers that exist in properly educating and distributing health to our communities.

It is one of the many layers that makes the job of providing and promoting health so difficult. How can you equitably educate your community when not everyone speaks in the same tongue? Or, when only certain school districts provide an adequate health education to their students?

The answer is, it’s impossible. And it‘s something I absolutely hate about my job and my field, but there will always be a patient or friend whose ability to be treated is influenced by their background.

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Cultural Barriers

There are many contributing factors to the cultural difficulties that present in healthcare.

For one, there can be language barriers present. I for one am desperately trying to improve my Spanish speaking skills because I know it can be nearly impossible to accurately understand a patient’s history and symptoms through a broken dialogue.

Although there is sometimes family who can translate, it can be risky to rely on an outside translator, as many individuals are not accustomed to common medical jargon.

Additionally, there can often be a level of distrust that exists among certain cultures, as is most definitely justified.

Have you ever heard of the Tuskegee syphilis study? If not, I’d encourage you to do a quick google search, as I could not possibly fully detail the injustices that were done in this trial. Once you become aware of instances like this, it’s no wonder that certain cultures may not fully trust the medical field or their suggestions.

Bottom line: various lineages are going to have differing experiences with healthcare providers, and it’s important to acknowledge their concerns so that trust can begin to develop between provider and patient.

Also, some cultures just don’t agree with modern medical practices, and that’s okay too. Some individuals follow a more holistic regimen in treating the body, and only seek medial attention as a last resort.

It’s also common to receive requests for cultural rituals that may be foreign to healthcare providers, but the more you respect these differing outlooks, the more the patient will feel at ease.

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Educational Barriers

There are also several educational barriers that exist that contribute to health barriers.

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Low socio-economic school districts have less money, thus less educational resources. This means less books, lower quality educational tools, fewer teachers with larger classroom sizes, and reduced overall funds for stimulating activities.

It also means a lower-budgeted education, which can inadvertently lead to a lower-quality education. Not because their teachers are any less capable, but because lower funded schools are stretched thinner than other districts.

Let’s think about this for a second. You may be thinking, what’s the big deal? So what if a kid learns less?

Well, it can be a huge deal. Imagine some of these scenarios. A lower funded school has less capability to teach sex education, which means many children will age not fully understand the concept of sex or pregnancy. This will likely lead to higher rates of teen pregnancies, which often further contributes to education and career boundaries.

Okay, also this. A lower funded school has less capability to educate their students on diet and exercise, which is fundamental to maintaining a health contentious lifestyle. If a child isn’t taught which foods contribute to a health diet, which environmental factors contribute to the epigenome, and how to monitor their overall health and well being, then how are they expected to thrive?

Sorry, epi-genome what now? The epigenome is the portion of the genome that can be influenced by environmental-causing mutagens. For example, smoking cigarettes. Although a person isn’t born with the mutation that causes lung cancer, they are at an increased risk of developing that mutation if they become a heavy smoker later in life.

I digress. So anyways, education is essential to promoting health.

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Environmental Barrers

Did you know that poorer neighborhoods typically have less parks, less sidewalks, and higher proportions of fast-food restaurants? This innately gives lower-income families less access to health-promoting activities and recreational areas that allow walking, biking, and playing.

It also gives them increased access to foods that are poor for their health stability, and typically have an impact on mental and emotional health as well.

In addition to more fast-food restaurants, poorer neighborhoods also have decreased access and lower proportions of grocery stores, which directly decreases access to fresh and healthy foods. This only encourages a fat-rich diet from promoting a reliance on fast foods, and inhibiting access to healthy foods.

There can also be a geographical factor. For instance, if you live on an isolated farm or island, you likely have limited access to healthcare and related resources. Whereas if you live in a thriving populated city, there is probably a Walgreens or urgent care at nearly every corner.

Or, what if you're wheelchair bound and your community doesn’t have chair ramps and disability accommodations?

All of these factors influence a person’s ability to monitor their health. The more we are aware of these barriers, the more we can prevent them.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Robyn

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