The Health Equity Blog’s mission is to contribute to the discussion of health policy using evidence and research, to explore the opportunities for health equity through policy change, to raise awareness about health disparities, and to increase public advocacy for health equality.

According to the CDC, “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to ‘attain his or her full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.’”

Achievement of full health potential is necessary in all aspects of life – from running errands to relationships with loved ones. Some people are born into environments that limit their ability to achieve their full health potential. We believe that because society created many health inequalities, society can also fix them.

Monday, February 3, 2014

State of the Union Recap

President Obama delivered the State of the Union address on January 28th. 

The State of the Union address is the President’s annual opportunity to address Congress and define upcoming legislative priorities. Below is a word cloud depicting the most frequently mentioned words. As you can see, America, Americans, help, work, new, and people were words President Obama repeated the most. President Obama also focused on issues of inequality, joblessness, and poverty - all which are closely related to health.

The Issues: Raising Minimum Wage and Creating Jobs

President Obama stated that he would increase the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour and urged Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour for all employees. Increasing the federal minimum wage and creating jobs would affect as many as 16.7 million workers and the 6.7% of Americans that are unemployed. Increasing the federal minimum wage (some states already have a higher minimum wage) is hotly debated among economists, policy makers, and the business community. On one side, a higher minimum wage will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers, thus raising the quality of life, and pouring money back into the economy. On the other side, businesses would have to pay workers more and could therefore lead them to hire fewer employees. President Obama also pushed for job creation. This is nothing new and something most of Congress can agree on. The debatable part is how to create jobs.

Raising the minimum wage and providing more jobs for the unemployed could have an impact on health. About 21.8% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty and 14.5% of householders are food insecure. Although it seems counterintuitive, researchers found that low wages predict an increase in the prevalence of obesity. The mechanisms behind the correlation between obesity and wages is not clear. The increasing consumption of cheap food (for example fast-food and highly processed foods) have been cited as a possible explanation. On a related note, with a higher income, a family could live in a safer home, decrease chronic stress, pay for health care, and leave more time for family. Creating jobs would also give people the opportunity to obtain health insurance through an employer. Check out our previous post about long-term unemployment and health.

The Issues: Equal Pay for Equal Work and Time Off for Sick Kids

In addition, women are about two-thirds of low-income workers. President Obama also pushed for policies that allow women to have a baby and take care of a sick child without fear of job loss. Workplace policies that could allow parents to care for a sick child without consequences could decrease the spreading of germs, allow the child to heal more quickly, and provide an opportunity to seek care from a doctor.

Does the State of the Union matter?
The issues that President Obama chose to include in the State of the Union are significant. Although some topics like unemployment are not new, President Obama did formally articulate an interest in raising the federal minimum wage and the increasing inequality in America. Policies and programs are not necessarily modified and formed because they are mentioned in the State of the Union. However, they do give a clear direction from the executive branch.

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