Health Equity: Raising the Standards of Individualized Health Care
While there is still a long way to go in achieving health equity in the United States, employers can help move things in the right direction.
Health equity has become a hot topic in health care, HR, and business leadership roles over recent years.
Covid-19 further highlighted the levels of disparity in health care across the United States and according to the BMJ, the pandemic has exposed the longstanding structural drivers of health inequities. Organizations can play an integral part in improving equitable access to health care - by providing health and caregiving benefits that offer health equity and a greater understanding of their employees.
Over 60 percent of respondents to a recent Glassdoor Job Confidence Survey claim that perks and benefits play a significant role in deciding whether to accept a job offer. The survey also revealed that 80 percent of workers would prefer additional benefits compared with a pay increase.
Let’s look at why health equity and benefits that can support access to health care are such important topics for employers and employees.
Health equity versus health equality
First, let’s define what the term health equity means and how it differs from health equality.
Health equality means treating all patients the same way. This is an important issue and health equality may be a good short-term strategy for improving outcomes for patients facing medical discrimination due to race or sexuality.
Health equity can be seen as a better standard of health care to aim for in the long term. Health equity means that everyone receives the individualized health care required to achieve the highest attainable level of health. Health equity entails investigating and resolving how poverty, ableism, sexism, racism, and other social or economic issues can make people susceptible to disease or obstruct access to care. The role of health equity is to make sure everyone has what they need for optimal health and wellness.
Health care professionals and decision-makers can use health equity to decide how to support people without access to the health care they need and where to invest medical resources.
Examples of health equity
Looking at a practical example, two individuals may have access to a nearby grocery store. While one can afford to buy a full weekly shop and eat a healthy, balanced diet, the other can not. Even though they both have equality in terms of access, they do not have equity in how much healthy food they can buy.
Caregiving support is another example of how health inequity makes it much harder for some people to attain their best level of health. Caregiving can be very difficult, and when you add in variable factors like location, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and sexuality, then caregiving can become even harder for some demographics and communities.
The Family First caregiving benefit can help to address this by giving caregivers support tailored to them and their personal caregiving situation. The Family First team of Care Experts has experience working with medical providers and community support organizations across hundreds of caregiving cases. Our Care Experts can help provide a caregiving strategy and use their knowledge and experience to uncover hidden issues that will make life better for the caregiver and care recipient. In addition, the team understands the processes of working and communicating with medical professionals, doctors, and other services to get each individual what they need to be as healthy as possible. In this way, Family First helps improve health equity for each individual we work with.
Health equity and access to health opportunities
Health equity recognizes that no two people begin in the same place in life or have the same medical needs. The high cost of care, insufficient insurance coverage, absence of resources in a community, and a lack of culturally competent services are all examples of obstacles to health equity.
While this is a social challenge, it’s clear that employers can impact some of these issues through the health care benefits they provide to employees. A McKinsey report found that large employers have the desire to go beyond just offering health benefits and are looking for ways they and benefit providers can improve health equity:
“Health equity in the workplace means that all employees have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Large employers have long offered employer-sponsored health insurance, but now many are asking what more they can do to help employees access the healthcare and other benefits they need.”
For instance, fewer Asian, Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ employees reported getting the treatment required. More employees from these groups than the general employee population said they had thought about changing jobs because of the available benefits.
Caregivers can be subject to poorer health care opportunities due to their circumstances.
Caregivers often have less free time for self-care, their work and career suffer, and finances become stretched. An example of how caregiving benefits can provide health equity is by providing equal access to caregiving support. The support can help individuals stay at work, allow them to work more hours than they could otherwise without caregiving support, and maintain lower levels of caregiving stress, leading to better overall health.
Caregiving benefits can also provide the education and access to professionals needed to plan and take care of their loved ones, which may not be accessible, affordable, or available without the support of the benefits program.
The majority of caregiving roles still fall on women. A caregiving role can have a negative impact on the caregiver's career. Caregiving is also known to increase rates of depression and anxiety. This is a clear case where health equity is needed to provide more support for this demographic to enable them to live healthier lives.
According to the Forbes article, Equity In The Workplace Requires Equity In Caregiving, a shift in perception about male caregivers is one possible solution that can help. The article also claims the role of celebrities such as Colin Farrel speaking out about his own caregiving role will shift how people see caregivers.
Meanwhile, the National Council on Aging believes that Caregiving in the U.S. has been historically undervalued and underpaid due to a history inseparable from racial and gender dynamics. It states:
“An equitable caregiving infrastructure is essential for families and care workers to earn income, accumulate assets, and save for the future.”
What steps can employers take to improve health equity?
According to the McKinsey report, employers can improve health equity by implementing the following three steps:
Expand benefit programs that help employees to meet basic needs like accommodation and transport
Ensure that the benefits on offer are easy for employees to access, understand, and use
Change workplace culture to destigmatize receiving care
Benefits such as Family First’s caregiving program can help achieve all three steps of the suggested plan. Typically the healthcare system is focused on the patient and not the caregiver. The difference with the Family First employee benefit is that we focus on the caregiver and their loved one to provide comprehensive solutions to the problems they face and provide health equity for both of them.
Our program can provide support for both caregivers and their care recipients, helping them to access support for suitable accommodation for the care recipient, find doctors, arrange transport to appointments, access free food and clothing, and much more as required by the individual circumstances.
Our program also offers easy access - we provide mHealth services, white glove clinical services, remote caregiving planning, and ongoing support as circumstances change. Family First also offers a wide range of resources that employees can access to learn more about available services and how to improve their caregiving situation.
Caregiving is highly stigmatized and can cause psychological distress in caregivers. It is estimated 73% of the workforce are caregivers, spanning a wide range of circumstances - childcare, eldercare, or caregiving for a loved one with a mental health illness or disability. Family First's benefits program helps educate and support caregivers and works to remove the stigmas for caregivers independent of gender, race, and economic status.
While there is still a long way to go in achieving health equity in the United States, employers can help move things in the right direction. Employers offering competitive health care benefits such as those available from Family First will also enjoy higher productivity, loyalty, and improved brand reputation with existing staff and potential employees.