“Why can’t they pull up their own bootstraps? I did it, why can’t they? They skirt accountability and their ‘ghetto behavior’ doesn’t help!”
Many are convinced this is the case. They boldly declare cultural differences — such as, social class, ethnicity and gender — do not limit opportunities. Disadvantaged groups are deservedly stuck in poverty because of laziness and attitude.
But can there be alternative explanations? Explanations that do not skirt accountability and blame “ghetto behavior” for the plight of those struggling to survive in America.
Here are three alternative explanations (there are many more). These alternative explanations are grounded in research and I included a partial reblog of a well-written article from the World Health Organization (WHO) on health determinants. (A link and a brief snippet of article follows)
- Poor environmental conditions profoundly impact health by creating unhealthy social, physical and emotional environments; as well as producing self-imposed social isolation and societal-imposed social isolation. People living in desolate, impoverished and unhealthy environments are often blinded by the darkness of their world. They can’t see, making it extremely challenging to find boots, let alone pull them up.
- Media coverage reinforcing negative stereotypes stigmatize disadvantaged and targeted ethnic communities and their members. Positive media coverage of disadvantaged groups are sparse with very few societal reminders that they are main characters in this movie called “life.” Disadvantaged or unprivileged groups are given few opportunities to break the cycle of poverty but many opportunities to stay where they are. The media plays an important role in keeping the status quo.
- Access, equity and justice are unfairly meted out to disadvantaged groups and targeted ethnic groups. Instead they are treated like children without brains. Decisions are made about their best interest without their input. Unintentionally giving these communities, boots filled with gaping holes without strings — impossible to pull one’s own boot straps up.
Have poor people and other ethnic groups stopped pulling themselves up by the bootstraps? No, they are walking bare-feet.
Which baby is likely to die first? It’s a shame! We can make such predictions based on the color of one’s skin! We can also make those predictions based on social class! We can predict but cannot prevent!
The determinants of health
Many factors combine together to affect the health of individuals and communities. Whether people are healthy or not, is determined by their circumstances and environment. To a large extent, factors such as where we live, the state of our environment, genetics, our income and education level, and our relationships with friends and family all have considerable impacts on health, whereas the more commonly considered factors such as access and use of health care services often have less of an impact.
The determinants of health include:
- the social and economic environment,
- the physical environment, and
- the person’s individual characteristics and behaviours.
The context of people’s lives determine their health, and so blaming people for having poor health or crediting them for good health is inappropriate. Individuals are unlikely to be able to directly control many of the determinants of health. These determinants—or things that make people healthy or not—include the above factors, and many others:
- Income and social status – higher income and social status are linked to better health. The greater the gap between the richest and poorest people, the greater the differences in health.
- Education – low education levels are linked with poor health, more stress and lower self-confidence.
- Physical environment – safe water and clean air, healthy workplaces, safe houses, communities and roads all contribute to good health. Employment and working conditions – people in employment are healthier, particularly those who have more control over their working conditions
- Social support networks – greater support from families, friends and communities is linked to better health. Culture – customs and traditions, and the beliefs of the family and community all affect health.
- Genetics – inheritance plays a part in determining lifespan, healthiness and the likelihood of developing certain illnesses. Personal behaviour and coping skills – balanced eating, keeping active, smoking, drinking, and how we deal with life’s stresses and challenges all affect health.
- Health services – access and use of services that prevent and treat disease influences health
- Gender – Men and women suffer from different types of diseases at different ages.
An excellent video on the importance of Early Childhood Education as well as innovative approaches to lifelong health. http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/multimedia/videos/