A range of societal as well as political issues determine the accessibility of health care and consequently the health status of most people around the world. The society to a large extent affects the health of individuals as well as other aspects of their lives.
Individuals exist in a social world and interaction with relatives and friends forms a sort of community influence. This means the health of an individual can be sustained by community support in conditions that would have been otherwise unfavourable.
When the society cannot perform this function however, the result is poor organisation of health care. Social inequality has emerged as a contentious issue as there continues to be a notable difference between the health of the poor and that of the rich. According to Ashraf (1999), the number of people living in poverty in the UK increased to 8 million in 1997 as compared to 7 million in 1995.
Currently, this figure is estimated at around 10 million. While parents are supposed to provide medical support for their children, most of them have been left with nothing to do as a result of the little income that they receive. Consequently, child mortality among the low income populations are quite high and so are the adult mortality rates (Botting, 1997: 35-38; Barker, 1998: 109-112).
Health activists not only blame the social inequality for the poor health in poor people but also the failure of the fiscal policies to address the needs of the poor and more so the health needs. Politicians once they get to the government are not keen to address the key issues that they promise to do before they get to power.
Even though accessibility to medical care has increased over the years, the government has placed priority to issues that are claimed to be of importance to the development of the economy while the health sector has not been given maximum attention that it deserves. Further, attempts to reduce income inequality which is to blame for the high levels of health disparities are rare and far between.
When these do happen, the middle income groups are mostly the ones who benefit from the programs. This paper will address the issue of the organisation of health care in relation to poverty. In order to make the paper more concise, focus on the societal causes and the role played by the government in this regard will be examined.
There are those societal factors that are more likely to affect the organisation of health care in any particular social group. The level of cooperation and support that each member of a community receives from fellow members highly influences their health. For example, a child whose parents are alive is bound to be in good health because he or she is well taken care of and the parents are keen to see that any kind of ailment is treated as fast as possible.
The problem sets in when the parents are no longer around or they cannot afford the medical expenses. This mostly stems directly from poverty. The mortality rate of children in poor families is ten times that of high income children (Doward, 2008: 10; Wild, 1997: 706). Poverty has been blamed on poor education which in turn limits the profession that one can take up such that most of the poor are concentrated in class V or the unskilled class (Lawless, et al, 1998: 63-64; Wadsworth, 1997: 205).
This is the reason why the society may not be able to improve their amount of income unless of course they increase their level of education (Jahoda, 1982: 124-129). Education is also important when it comes to making community decisions such that a well educated society is likely to come up with ideas such as building a health centre for the members of the community among other developments (Rowntree, 2001: 33-35).
Looking at it closely though, poor education again is a direct result of poverty (Frankfurt, 2000: 37). Had there been enough to acquire decent education, members of the society could have been better off. The level of education leading to less poverty has however been witnessed since 1979 to date among individuals.
The impact of poverty on health is quite pervasive and this is an issue which for a long time has been of social concern. Poverty and inequality are partly to blame for the poor health among citizens who are not well off (Starfield, 1992; 21-22). This is because they may not be able to access medical care as required because of the hefty bills.
The inequality levels continue to rise because in every human society, there is a tendency for the rich to grow richer while the poor become worse off. So far, the world’s inequality since 1967 has doubled (Smith, 2001: 85). Delegates in London for a health conference at the Royal College of physicians learnt that in the world today, one fifth of the population lives in absolute poverty. Smith (2001: 88) notes that poverty increases probability of human beings suffering from ill health.
As a result of poverty, poor people are less likely to take necessary precautions to protect themselves from catching diseases such as immunisation and constant checkups (Oldfield, 1993: 63). This means that the mortality of poorer people is likely to be higher than that of rich people. Again, psychological mechanisms resulting out of deprivation are likely to cause ill health.
For example constant financial problems are likely to lead to stress which in turn alters blood pressure and causes stomach ulcers among others thus decreasing immunity. From this we can conclude that socioeconomic factors have a big role to play in health wellbeing (Illsley and Baker, 1997: 117). There are suggestions that this could even be more of an influencing factor than medical services.
The involvement of communities through charities since the 90s has however been a major contributor to better health access especially for the children. The most recent is the End Child Poverty, a network consisting of 130 charities and groups meant to reduce the mortality rates among children caused by poverty (Doward, 2008: 11).
Poverty has been blamed on the government’s laxity in reducing income inequality among the citizens. Activists will agree to the fact that the government has constantly tried to address this issue. Notable however is that the effort is not enough and that the difference between the rich and the poor continues to widen.
Consequently, the poor continue to languish in poor health as their priorities for basic needs exceed their ability to afford proper medical care. The level of unemployment is still high in the UK (Smith, 2008:54).This is made worse by the fact that very few health centres have been set up to cater for the low income earners and therefore they spend a big fraction of their salary on medical expenses (Townsted, et al, 1992: 89-92).
Between the early 1970s and early 90s, the difference in life expectancy of unskilled men or those in social class V compared to professionals or those from class one increased to five years (Mayor, 2008). This shows that health inequality by the 90s was still quite high in the UK. Instances of illness were also quite different given that 48 percent of class V men suffered long illness as compared to professionals who only reported 17 percent (Mayor, 1998; Chalton and Wallace, 1994: 58).
With advance in time, the government is still trying to reduce the inequality but the difference remains remarkably high.
The UK Working Group on Inequalities in Health was established in1977.