Poor Getting Worst Affected During COVID-19: A look At Health Related Inequality Due To Social Class

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Image Source: BBC

Indians have experienced inequality for more than a century.  In 2019, 73 percent of the wealth generated in India was by the top 1 percent of the population. There is a huge gap in the health sector in India, shaped by class. Health Inequality is a structured difference in health. There are many alterable health risks according to social privileges and advantages. One’s relative status in a social hierarchy is determined by wealth, caste, gender, sexuality.

Barriers Faced

Marginalized groups are often worst affected because of poor housing conditions. It is related to a wide range of health conditions. This includes respiratory infections, asthma, lead poisoning, injuries, and mental health. Diseases related to lack of sanitation like diarrhea, malaria, dengue are also prevalent. Work-related diseases and disabilities are as prevalent among the poor as the rich.

Unclean neighbourhood also affects physical wellbeing. For example, those who live in slums like Dharavi. It has an area of over 5 square kilometers and a population of about 700,000. They are more prone to infectious diseases and viruses. Taking into consideration, COVID-19 that started spreading in India since March 2020. It is difficult to contain the virus if it is spread in a slum-like Dharavi. So, practicing social distancing becomes impossible.

Lack of Information 

Besides poor housing conditions, people with low resources lack the necessary information.  Those would help them prevent or treat the disease. Awareness of disease and symptoms is essential for screening and early detection. If members of the public are aware of a disease and its symptoms, they are more likely to take action to prevent it. They would go to healthcare providers for check- ups. Additionally, general public health education is lacking. For example, knowledge of proper hygiene and water treatment. A failure to understand the origins of a disease can lead to socio-cultural stigmas.

In this way, a lack of education leads to the spread of disease. It prevents patients from seeking healthcare. They do not take advantage of the development of Health Insurance in India. Education is a key factor in influencing the decision to opt for insurance. Absence of the same makes the poor unaware of the advantages of health insurance.

Transportation is a basic but necessary step for ongoing health care and medication. Those with chronic diseases need clinician visits, medication, and changes to treatment plans. People with limited resources cannot afford to travel distances for their treatment. Even traveling in the same city might be difficult for them as the taxi rates might be expensive for them. Even for non-fatal diseases they cannot go and see a doctor. This increases their infection chances and leads to death.

Expensive Tools and Equipments 

The majority of poverty-stricken people delayed care for themselves in the past year. Over the past few decades, rapid economic growth has allowed millions out of poverty. 

Government hospitals do not have the most equipment and tools.  The poor can’t afford private hospitals. Moreover, they cannot even afford vaccination for their children which leads to early deaths. Due to COVID-19, the cost of PPE and virus detecting tools have increased the treatment costs.

Fast Food Consumerism

Fast food is cheaper than healthier foods.  This, in turn, leads to the poor consuming more of it. It is well established that a person can buy a packet for chips for Rs. 10, but cannot buy fruits with the same amount. A poor person would prefer having a packet of chips since it tastes good and also fills his stomach. But it leads to many health hazards and diseases.

Junk food which is rich in calories, fat, sugar and salt is much yummier and easier to prepare than healthy food. These food do not contain vital nutrients required for good health. These are made of fried and preserved food which does not remain natural. Such a condition also leads to kidney problems. Consumption of cheaper fast food will lead to mental instability which causes depression. For a poor person to afford a healthy lifestyle is very difficult.

It is well known that organic food is better than normal food, but it is also expensive. Even people from the middle class cannot afford a proper lifestyle with organic food. Likewise, the case of a lower class, who is unable to afford normal foods like fruits, vegetables, etc.


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