This blog post is part of the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) Community Working Group’s Blog Carnival entitled, Health Equity Can’t Wait!, to celebrate April as National Minority Health Month. You can find all posts in the blog carnival here. And you can join us on Twitter, using hastag #HealthEquityNow, Friday, April 27 from 3-4 EDT for a Tweet Storm on health equity.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) works on behalf of 20 million Latinas in the U.S., striving to ensure that all of our mothers, sisters, aunts, and friends can live healthy and dignified lives in a just society. But why are health and health care so important to dignity, justice, and other social justice goals?
Health is a fundamental civil and human right—it’s difficult to realize and fulfill other human rights without the ability to become healthy, stay healthy, or obtain the care one needs to maintain one’s health.
For example, the right to work, including for fair pay and without discrimination, is a highly regarded human right and, some might say, civic duty. But living with chronic disease or pain can make it difficult to obtain or hold down a job, much less stay on any career track. Latin@s often work in high-risk, low-pay, and minimal-benefit jobs. As a result, they are likely to face illness and injury related to work—negative effects that too often go ignored by employers. But that’s not all: the lack of benefits, such as paid sick days, can mean that a woman risks her job when she has to miss work for a medical appointment or to stay home sick. Being unjustly fired from or partly or completely disabled by a job can make it hard to find subsequent employment.
Another human right, too often ignored in the U.S. particularly in relation to communities of color, relates to human dignity. Although one’s ability to work is relevant to one’s ability to live with dignity, a crucial consideration to human dignity is striving for economic security for all and ensuring that everyone has a basic minimum, without regard to whether or where they work. For those who have employer-provided health insurance—less than 40% of Latinas in 2008—premiums have been rising and paying deductibles and medical bills has been a struggle. For those who are uninsured, which includes about one-third of Latinos, the costs are insurmountable. When a person delays needed medical care, the condition for which she seeks attention may worsen, making treatment more expensive and time-consuming and placing even greater burdens on her job and her finances.
NLIRH recognizes that Latin@s in the U.S. face numerous barriers to obtaining the health care we need—from geographical limitations and immigration status issues to pocketbook problems and language barriers, it is difficult for us to get in to see a healthcare provider. This, combined with hard and low-paid work, can create or worsen health conditions, putting health just out of our reach. Getting or staying healthy is crucial to Latin@s’ overall wellbeing, which is why health and healthcare are fundamental civil and human rights.