Health equity—or the principle that everyone should have equal opportunities to be as healthy as possible—can, at first glance, seem Utopian or out of reach. However, there are two key pillars that, once mastered, support health plans in addressing health equity meaningfully:
When people are supported financially AND socially, they are given the opportunity to achieve health equity.
Income inequality is a key contributor to health inequity.
Those with wealth can more easily afford healthy groceries, gym memberships, and helpful-but-elective medical procedures, while those living below at or below the poverty line are less financially capable of accessing these resources. In the US, counties with poverty rates over 35% had obesity rates of 145% higher than wealthier counties.
The use of micro-financing initiatives have been introduced in the past to create economic stimulation within communities which ultimately contributes to the quality of services, facilities, as well as income equality.
In South Africa, Micro-finance programs were used to fund the poorest in the community and encourage economic participation.n When these funds were linked to desired health outcomes such as HIV/AIDS training programs, the outcomes were promising. The presence of these programs, granting economic power to previously impoverished communities, resulted in a decrease of interpersonal violence, an improvement in physical and mental health, and strengthening community ties.
Neighborhoods with higher income brackets have more funding available for education, sanitation management, or quality public transportation because there is simply more money circulating. Conversely, the lack of these resources has critical effects on the overall health of a community.
As social determinants of health can occur at various points in one’s life there are also a few different opportunities for intervention, including:
School is one of the first continuous interactions with people outside of the family unit and can shape how a child interacts with their peers as well as their own self esteem. For children that come from homes struggling with social determinants such as poverty, school can offer a resource for nurturing, growth, and belonging.
However, this resource can be diminished or depleted if schools are overcrowded and underfunded.
The work force is where adults are expected to spend a majority of their time—leading an individual’s health and wellness to be affected by the social conditions of their job.
A positive and supportive work environment can be a chance for positive social interactions, goal achievement, and financial growth. Unfortunately there are a lot of occupations that carry extra stress and stigmas such as service jobs and these jobs are widely held by people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. There is less room for growth, upward mobility, and an increased emotional toll due to the dependency on tips.
Individuals with a solid support group have better health outcomes overall than those who do not. This is where healthy familial relationships or friendships come into play.
Several studies report that positive social support correlates with positive health outcomes and adversely negative social relationships yield poor health outcomes. Social determinants of health can hinder an individual’s ability to create and confide in lasting relationships and the way these present themselves can change throughout the life course.
Having healthy bonds with other people can buffer outside traumas and stressors in the same way that unhealthy relationships can exacerbate negative health outcomes such as abuse, behavioral disorders, or chronic conditions. Nowadays these can take place in religious settings, clubs, fitness classes, and even in the virtual sphere with a growing popularity for online connections.
When resources lack in any of these areas, a crucial foundation for health equity is damaged.
In order to uphold health equity, both pillars must be intact. Wellth’s platform has proven effective for long term behavior change in the most difficult populations because it utilizes both financial and social support for our members.
Wellth understands that chronic conditions are nuanced, as are the people who live with them. By marrying behavioral economics and live support we create a platform that can meet a variety of needs.
Wellth offers financial support in the form of small financial rewards given as a reward for care plan adherence. Wellth members spend 68% of Wellth rewards on groceries and food, 20% on household needs, 7% on vehicle maintenance and gas, and 5% on home repairs. These directly contribute to undoing social determinants of health such as food insecurity, lack of access to transportation and meeting their environmental needs.
“The financial rewards helped me a lot also. I am part of a low income population...With the rewards I received, I was able to buy shampoo, soap, some groceries, and vitamins. I feel that it is really beneficial to have this kind of program available for us since it creates healthy habits for us and at the same time helps us have a better quality of life.”
- Feedback from a Wellth member
Wellth’s live support team and personalized app experience satisfies the human need for interpersonal support.
If a member misses too many check-ins they will get a reach out from an actual person to help address any roadblocks that could be preventing care plan adherence, going so far as to work with the care team to make sure the member is taken care of in a comprehensive manner. The app itself uses social rewards in the form of personalized messages of congratulations based on what the member interacts with the most and even has the opportunity to unlock video and voice messages from supportive family and friends.
“The thing for me is it helps me stay on track. I always go through my mania phases and it hurts me really bad to where it makes my emotions go up and down...i completely shut out the world, except you guys i would answer you because i was trying to keep up my meds. But when i was encouraged to take them and i was able to take them so long in a row it actually became easier for me to stay with it”
-Feedback from a Wellth member
With an average care plan adherence of 90%, members are set up for long term success because they are not only financially supported, but are equipped with a support system and understanding of their conditions.