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Ill health of poor imperils health of affluent

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Minneapolis, with some rich suburbs and many poor people, too.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, M.D., has challenged his fellow state healthcare leaders to stop “’admiring the problem’ of health inequity — the troubling gap between the excellent health of Minnesota’s {more affluent} white majority and the poor health of {low-income} minorities” and do something about it.  And, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, he noted that the health of the middle-and-upper-income white majority can be jeopardized by the ill health of the poor.

He said, the paper paraphrased, ”that solutions go beyond medical treatment and health insurance coverage. Everything from affordable housing to education to workplace leave policies and fresh produce can influence a person’s well-being — so addressing gaps in health means addressing gaps in those areas as well.”

That’s what Cambridge Management has found in its community-health work, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

The paper, paraphrasing his remarks, said that “Getting the healthy white majority to care sufficiently about inequities will take work. In a system that has been described as ‘structural racism,’ the healthy people might be sympathetic, but also loathe to give up advantages that have ensured their superior health.”

Dr. Ehlinger told a state Health Department forum:  “In the societies with the biggest disparities, the people at the top are not as healthy.”

“We are affected by who serves our food, who takes care of people in the hospital, people in the nursing homes, people in our child care centers. They are increasingly people of color and people with lower incomes. Their health is going to have a direct impact on the health of the people they are working with.”

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