Blog Post: Disease and Access to Healthcare - Building Healthy Communities
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Blog Post: Disease and Access to Healthcare

Blog Post: Disease and Access to Healthcare

Disease doesn’t check a person’s papers when it invades a body. We shouldn’t either when we treat the patient.

By Anthony Iton

Full access to health care for all is one of the most cost-effective policies that we could implement in the United States. We know that 75-80 percent of what kills us and makes us sick is preventable, yet we continue to have a health care system that is not designed to create healthy outcomes.

The crucial point is that we know how to prevent most diseases. That’s not a mystery. Unfortunately, our health care system was designed for the 19th century and not the 21st century. Quality, affordable health care not only is morally right, it is smart policy from an economic perspective.

In California, we are not waiting for the rest of the country to figure out how quality health care benefits them. Our leaders are committed to delivering cost-efficient care in innovative ways, from school-based healthy centers and clinics. They treat the health issue, and don’t get bogged down by ability to pay or immigration status.

Disease doesn’t check a person’s papers when it invades a body. We shouldn’t either when we treat the patient.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “California for All” plan includes a progress health care road map that will have a major impact on the quality of life for everyone in our state. One day we will look back on these policies and wonder why it took so long to bring them to fruition. The benefits of delivering health prevention in cost-efficient ways cannot be denied.

We will create a healthier population that is more productive. This will include everyone living in our state, and not cut out people because they came here as immigrants.

That’s why it was so disheartening to hear of things like the private Facebook group of Border Patrol agents, who under cover of the “private group” the most despicable things about immigrants and those trying to help them. This clear animus still informs the narrative about immigrants, and that narrative shapes policy, including access to quality health care.

And nationally, we still have too many fighting the Affordable Care Act, not because it’s not working, but because it has become a political pawn in a battle of ideologies. The ACA could fall because of this fight, and that would be a tragedy for the millions of people who have gotten health insurance through this program.

Unfortunately, the landscape still conspires against the health and well-being of low-income populations because of the cumulative and synergistic effects of the social and physical environments. This has lifelong consequences, and becomes generational.

The California Endowment’s foundational belief is that increasing opportunities for low-income people will correlate with improvements in their health. We are now making progress in closing the health-care gap in California. While huge challenges remain, we also should be applauding state policy changes that indicate progress toward our goals.

California is on the right track by recognizing our shared humanity to invest early in young people and working people. This allows them to continue to thrive. Other states should follow our example.

Dr. Anthony Iton is senior vice president of the California Endowment overseeing the 14 Building Healthy Communities projects. He has a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.