Understanding Health Inequities in Southwest Michigan
As our understanding of health evolves, research has shown that health is more than just the absence of a disease or illness. It’s a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, often impacted by community factors.
In our region, mortality rates are just one example. The Berrien County Department of Health found that the differences in mortality rates are closely associated with poverty, poor education and, significantly, race. In other words, lack of income and education and being Black are risk factors for early mortality in Berrien County. According to the Community Health Needs Assessment, in Berrien County, there are significant difference in the death rates. The CHNA estimates that Black people in Berrien County die at rates that are more than 30% higher.
Racial bias and discrimination can also have a significant impact on health. In recent years, science has shown that bias and discrimination can harm health by limiting access to critical resources and opportunities, but they also harm health through biological processes that predispose people to a wide range of diseases and illnesses, including those that burden Lakeland’s health system such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and poor mental health. Science is also uncovering important intergenerational implications.
So what can we do? We can start by learning more:
Lynn Todman, PhD, Vice President, Health Equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland supports strategic efforts to improve the health of the regional population. She is an advocate for population health and the health of marginalized and disadvantaged communities.
Coming to Spectrum Health Lakeland in June 2021, Willie E. Lawrence, MD, Medical Director for Health Equity at Spectrum Health Lakeland, is a cardiologist with experience in internal medicine with subspecialties in cardiovascular diseases, interventional cardiology, and nuclear cardiology.
Dr. Todman and Dr. Lawrence contributed to the 2020 American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Consensus Conference on Professionalism and Ethics: A Consensus Conference Report. Taskforce 4 of the 2020 Consensus Conference Report, they focus on three specific areas relevant to contemporary biomedicine: 1) patient autonomy, particularly as it relates to clinical decision making; 2) privacy, data access, and transparency with the expansion of research and proliferation of electronic biomedical data resources; and 3) social justice in medical education and clinical practice. Click here to learn more.