Dr. Cheryl Dickson says income and environment influence health outcomes more than the care people receive from a physician. The Associate Dean of Health Equity and Community Affairs at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine will discuss health equity at the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo’s Community Breakfast on Thursday, March 7th at the Radisson in downtown Kalamazoo.
Dickson says poverty is a major factor in health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. She says where people live determines whether they have access to affordable healthy food, such as fresh produce, and whether or not they have a safe place for physical activity. But Dickson says there are factors other than income.
Dickson says racism and other biases have to be addressed. For instance, the longstanding racial difference in infant mortality in Kalamazoo County is persistent across income levels. Dickson says wealthier women of color are more likely to lose their baby within the first year of life than lower income white women. “So we also have to talk about racism and racism also as one of those things that is a barrier or change the way that health outcomes are.”
Health equity, Dickson says, is recognizing that inputs may have to be different for everyone to achieve the same results. She says equality is giving everyone the same thing. But she says equity means “we want everyone to have the quality health care that they all deserve.” Asked about possible solutions, Dickson says education and understanding about disparities. She says it’s important to acknowledge and discuss bias. Dickson says learning about other cultures is a “life long commitment to actually try to understand.”