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  • Writer's pictureHealthyGPHW

What is a health disparity?

Updated: Mar 13, 2019

When you think of a health disparity, what comes to mind? I asked Dr. Asha Shajahan, family physician, Beaumont Health, this question. She said, “Disparities are preventable barriers to quality of care and are determined by the social determinants of health. It refers to a higher level of illness, injury or mortality experienced by one group versus another.”

For example, social determinants of health include education, literacy, access to transportation and housing. Access to healthy food and a grocery store can be limited by access to reliable transportation. An elderly person who is no longer able to drive and lives alone may be unable to get to the doctor or the grocery store.

“There are health disparities in our communities of Grosse Pointe and Harper Woods,” said Dr. Shajahan. “If you don’t have a car or don’t have enough money to pay for parking you can’t get to the grocery store and healthy food options.” These disparities can result in unnecessary costs, loss of work and even premature death.

The first step to combat health disparities is awareness. “Once we’re aware that disparities exist, then we can work together to solve these issues,” said Dr. Shajahan. “Everyone has a role to overcome these disparities including government officials, physicians, businesses, schools, parents – the entire community.”

The development of the Healthy Grosse Pointe and Harper Woods initiative is the first step in combatting health disparities. There are a number of resources listed on its web site, “Collaborative change is what moves the needle,” said Dr. Shajahan.

Listen to the Beaumont Housecall Podcast on Zipcodes and learn how where you live can determine your health outcomes.

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