Check out the list of October’s 206 observances and awareness events for the month. There are also 1159 individual days during the month with holidays scheduled. Overkill? Will you celebrate National Cookie, Pizza, Pork, or Seafood Month? How about Orthodontic Health, Agent Orange Awareness, and Bat Appreciation Month? The hype calendar for October is fractured into a crazy mosaic of special interests and obscure promotions. Among the more mainstream and well-known observances are, of course, Domestic Violence Awareness and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both in October. The effectiveness of these campaigns is hard to measure. While they have been lodged in the all-important consumer consciousness through product packaging and corporate advocacy, it’s hard to say if the money goes where it’s truly needed and if the marketing is meaningful for real people or effectively improves lives.
According to the National Library of Medicine, health awareness initiatives may do more harm than good. In the case of Breast Cancer Awareness, for example, the public may be suffering from “pink fatigue.” Research suggests that when the public is bombarded with so many health awareness messages people might begin to believe that the knowledge is as good as action in terms of prevention. It’s also evident that health awareness campaigns might reinforce ideologies of individual responsibility and the false idea that if we have poor health it’s our fault. Knowing about a health issue is different from changing individual behavior. Additionally, the US Department of Health & Human Services points out that these kinds of health communications can’t “compensate for inadequate health care or access to health care services.”
THAT IS THE evergreen topic right there: inadequate health care or access to health care services. And who is most adversely affected by inadequacies and access issues? You get three guesses…women, people of color, and those with lower socioeconomic status, as usual.
The Covid pandemic exposed health inequity in the US for everyone to see. Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall compared with six other industrialized countries—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—on measures of quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and the ability to lead long, healthy, and productive lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. Life expectancy around the world decreased in 2020 due to COVID-19. But, most countries rebounded by 2021. The U.S. has continued to decline. Maternal mortality rates continue to go up. And, mortality rates among U.S. children and adolescents are on the rise. “Across the lifespan, and across every demographic group, Americans die at younger ages than their counterparts in other wealthy nations.” – NPR Morning Edition
The health care system itself is in serious trouble.
Dr. Eric Reinhart, a political anthropologist and physician at Northwestern University wrote in a NYT guest essay, “The United States is the only large high-income nation that doesn’t provide universal health care to its citizens. Instead, it maintains a lucrative system of for-profit medicine. For decades, at least tens of thousands of preventable deaths have occurred each year because health care here is so expensive.” He describes the distress and disillusionment felt by so many healthcare providers who can no longer overlook the failures of the for-profit system or ignore the immorality of healthcare inequity. Doctors and nurses are leaving the field they worked so hard to get into. They are recognizing the inherent cruelty in the system and becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their own complicity in it.
Dr. Reinhart recognizes the inaction of political leaders to move on this. He advocates for medical professionals to take action by unionizing and using civil disobedience “to call for a fundamental reorganization of our medical system.” He encourages all his colleagues to make some TROUBLE. We couldn’t agree more. This is a highly complex issue and it is worthy of our time to learn all we can about what we can do to affect change that can save lives and ultimately change the balance of power in our country. The state of our health care system reflects the systemic injustice, racial and wealth inequality, and sexism in our culture at large. It’s worth our attention and action. It’s worth our time, our actions, and our votes to put the right people in power who understand and care about this critical issue negatively affecting us all.
The Health Equity Tracker says, “Health Equity exists when all people, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic status, geographic location, or other societal constructs have fair and just access, opportunity, and resources to achieve their highest potential for health. Unfortunately, social and political determinants of health negatively affect many communities, their people, and their ability to lead healthy lives.”
Organizations are working behind the scenes and in the open to repeal and constrain personal freedoms and hard-won rights while our life expectancy falls and our national standing in the world declines. We The People [The Women] have the responsibility to understand and to act–like we do–to stop this regression and get America moving in the right direction; moving toward equity and justice. Troublemakers for good, let’s go! Get out there and make your voice heard. Support people and organizations that push back and do the work to promote health equity. Planned Parenthood, for example, continues to fill in the gaps and provide essential health services to women of all ages. (Read about another of our own featured TM’s, Gloria Feldt, former CEO of PP!)
“The absence of comprehensive and uniform health care for mothers and children while flatly prohibiting abortion in the supposed interest of preserving human life surely demonstrates hypocrisy that needs attention.” Comment by Wes on US News & World Report article Maternal Death a Stubborn Issue in U.S
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SPEAK UP – SPEAK OUT. THIS REALLY MATTERS.