The United States reportedly spends over $8,000 per person on healthcare annually. This amount is two-and-a-half times greater than any other developed country in the world (Kane, 2012). However, this is not reflected statistically in the morbidity and mortality rates of its citizens. Many may ask why and what are we missing. To answer these questions, one may need to look no further than their own town and community.
In 2013, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported health disparities as a causative factor for the unchanging morbidity and mortality rates in the United States. The World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as “conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age”, and also identify them as the main cause for health inequalities worldwide (WHO, 2013). Health disparities affect people of all ages. The risk of dying before the age of 65 is over three times greater for citizens at the socioeconomic bottom of society than those at the top (Alder & Stewart, 2007). The youngest citizens are not immune to these facts. Infants born to mothers with less than 12 years of education are twice as likely to die during their first year of life compared to those born to mothers with 16 or more years of education (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2008).
Healthcare is a continually evolving and changing with aims of improving patient care, cost containment, and research that advances medications and procedures beyond expectations. The majority of focus is on disease processes and treatments. Therefore, the effects of lower economic status on personal health may not be receiving the attention it deserves. The nursing profession is in a unique position to assist in providing the advocacy, education, caring, and community involvement required to both look for causative factors and to identify possible solutions of social inequality of health (Lathrop, 2013). Nurses such as Florence Nightingale and Loretta Ford long ago worked tirelessly to lay the groundwork for correlating health and socioeconomic status (Lathrop, 2013).
Health Reform Goal and Cost Reduction
The idea of improving social determinants by expanding the role of nurses coincides with one major goal of health care reform, which is preventative care. Addressing social determinants through education provided to the community outside of an acute care setting along with the expansion of preventive care in the health reform policy both have the common goal of increasing the wellbeing of the community. Also, to increase access to healthcare and preventative care, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will bring substantial changes to the U.S Health care system over the next several years including a new emphasis on prevention and expanding coverage to 32 million currently uninsured Americans.” (Lathrop, 2013)
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will also allow for a federal investment in a variety of preventative...