Working in rural western Colorado I see the vast income inequality that plagues the rest of the nation as it interacts with our community’s health. In the Denver Post lately Colorado was recognized as one of the top 20 states with highest income inequality. Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Colorado is home to very wealthy people while others make an average of $19,000. I mean, look at Aspen and Vail! We also aren’t sheltered from the fact that such large income inequality is growing and that with every economic disaster that our state goes through the rich get even richer.
Income inequality is a problem for our state and the rest of the nation because of the detrimental health effects it produces. In a study done in Europe, it was found that for a 1% GDP increase, there was likely to be a 30% reduction of the chance that there would be an outbreak of HIV. So, if the country is doing better as a whole, health for all gets better? Well, yes- but we must remember that HIV as well as most other illnesses disproportionately affect the poor. Therefore, people living at lower income brackets will finally get relief from illnesses that they are unequally burdened with. Living in a rural community adds more complexity. Rural communities when studied rated their health as fair or poor 28% of the time compared to 21% for urban populations.
I ask you this: Why is Colorado any different than other states with huge income gaps?
Colorado is a place where people have demanded that we at least attempt to minimize the effects of income disparity. There is no doubt in my mind that there is much more to be done to bring equality to people of all incomes, I just would like to highlight the advances in policy-making that our state has made. Our state has recognized that people living in lower socioeconomic situations bear the burden of detrimental health effects. To start to mitigate this effect, Colorado has participated in Medicaid expansion as well as other programs to assist all people in accessing health care. One of those programs is the participation in the Ryan White Care Act that mandates that care for all people living with HIV be made affordable to all. I have a personal connection to this piece of legislation due to its funding of the clinic I work in. Because of socially just thinking and the fact that Colorado has taken income inequality into consideration, our patient population has access to medications as well as other services.
Colorado’s HIV positive population is similar to the rest of the nation in that it is statistically poorer and composed of a higher minority percentage than the rest of the state. The difference here is that due to various efforts we are addressing HIV care in western Colorado in a way that eliminates as much impact as possible from income inequality.
About the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2016, from http://hab.hrsa.gov/abouthab/aboutprogram.html
Colorado Center on Law & Policy | Justice and Economic Security for all Coloradans. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2016, from http://cclponline.org/
Di Domenico, S. I., & Fournier, M. A. (2014). Socioeconomic status, income inequality, and health complaints: A basic psychological needs perspective. Social Indicators Research, 119(3), 1679-1697. doi:10.1007/s11205-013-0572-8
Lein, L., Romich, J. L., & Sherraden, M. (2016). Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative. American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare, (16), 1-21. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from http://aaswsw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/WP16-with-cover-2.pdf
National Rural Health Association. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2016, from http://www.ruralhealthweb.org/go/left/about-rural-health/what-s-different-about-rural-health-care
Nikolopoulos, G. K., Fotiou, A., Kanavou, E., Richardson, C., Detsis, M., Pharris, A., . . . Hatzakis, A. (2015). National Income Inequality and Declining GDP Growth Rates Are Associated with Increases in HIV Diagnoses among People Who Inject Drugs in Europe: A Panel Data Analysis. PLOS ONE PLoS ONE, 10(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122367
O’Connor, C. (2014, August 28). New report shows growing income inequality in Colorado. The Denver Post. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26424354/new-report-shows-growing-income-inequality-colorado