Health Inequity Has Been Reduced to a ‘Checklist of Unmet Social Needs,’ Exec Saya


In the ongoing pursuit of health equity, Dr. Shreya Kangovi, executive director of the Penn Center for Community Health Workers, underscores the crucial importance of recognizing and addressing factors such as racism and lack of power. In a recent discussion, Dr. Kangovi emphasized the need for comprehensive strategies that go beyond a mere checklist of unmet social needs.

Health inequities are deeply rooted in social, economic, and environmental factors, perpetuated by systemic injustices. Dr. Kangovi’s perspective challenges the notion that health equity can be achieved solely by addressing immediate social needs. Instead, she asserts that a holistic approach must consider the structural barriers faced by marginalized communities, including the insidious impact of racism and power imbalances.

The consequences of racism on health outcomes are well-documented. Discrimination and bias in healthcare systems can lead to lower quality of care, misdiagnosis, and inadequate treatment, disproportionately affecting marginalized populations. Dr. Kangovi emphasizes the importance of actively combating racism within healthcare institutions and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure fair and equitable access to healthcare services for all.

Furthermore, power dynamics play a significant role in shaping health disparities. Socioeconomic inequalities, limited access to resources, and lack of decision-making power can create barriers that perpetuate health inequities. Dr. Kangovi urges the adoption of strategies that empower individuals and communities, allowing them to actively participate in decisions that affect their health. This approach involves engaging communities in the development and implementation of interventions, fostering partnerships between healthcare providers and community organizations, and amplifying the voices of marginalized groups.

While addressing unmet social needs remains a vital component of health equity efforts, Dr. Kangovi’s insights illuminate the need for a more nuanced approach. Achieving health equity requires a comprehensive understanding of the underlying social determinants of health, including racism and power dynamics. By acknowledging and actively challenging these structural inequalities, healthcare systems can foster a more inclusive and equitable environment for all individuals, regardless of their background.

In conclusion, Dr. Shreya Kangovi’s perspective serves as a timely reminder that health equity strategies should encompass more than just a checklist of unmet social needs. By acknowledging and addressing the impact of racism and power dynamics, healthcare systems can move closer to achieving a fair and just healthcare landscape for all.


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