This article was written exclusively for The European Sting by Ms Beth Elinor Stinchcombe, a third year medical student at the University of Warwick, UK. It is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), a cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this article belong strictly to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IFMSA on the subject, nor that of The European Sting.
While there has been an increase in life expectancy and various health gains over the past century due to various scientific and public health advances, this has been accompanied by an increase in societal inequalities. and sanitary. Health inequalities are defined by the World Health Organization as “differences in health status or in the distribution of health resources among different population groups, resulting from the social conditions into which people are born, grow, live, work and age”.
Health inequalities are evident and pervasive in all societies. This can be evidenced by looking at the London Underground map, for example life expectancy drops by 12 years between Lancaster Gate and Mile End, a 20 minute journey on the Central Line.
Health inequalities affect all members of society, even the wealthy, as research has shown that inequalities reduce social cohesion, which can lead to more stress, fear and insecurity for all members of society. society, which has an indirect impact on health. So how can we tackle health inequalities and create meaningful change on this issue? As Rudolf Virchow said in the 1800s: “Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing but medicine on a larger scale.
Health disparities are the result of broader social issues. It can be easy to wonder how can I, as an individual medical student, do anything about this? However, each person and each action creates ripples that contribute to a collective movement, which ultimately creates impact and facilitates change. No action is too small!
Medical students can begin to tackle health inequities through education, advocacy, and action in their local communities. Educate yourself and others on the topic of health inequalities and learn about your local community and the challenges individuals within the community face, especially those who are most excluded from society . Additionally, you can campaign for social justice topics such as health inequities to be included in your medical curriculum if you haven’t already. Additionally, you may be able to collaborate with others to advocate for government action and the development of an intergovernmental strategy in your country to address the causes of health and other inequities.
Arguably the best way to tackle health inequities is to take meaningful action in your local community after understanding the needs of local people, listening to them and the issues they face. Participating in a local community project has a tangible impact on those who need it most, whether it’s helping to set up a local food bank or volunteering at a homeless shelter.
Communities need more than just medicines to be healthy; they need to be heard and listened to. Medical students can help achieve this goal and reduce health inequities by integrating a public health perspective into medicine. Now more than ever, the world needs well-rounded, culturally sensitive healthcare professionals who can meet the healthcare needs of an increasingly diverse society.
About the Author
Beth Elinor Stinchcombe is a third year medical student at the University of Warwick, UK. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from University College London. Prior to medical school, she worked in public health to tackle regional public health issues and as part of the UK national response to COVID-19. She is currently Director of International Affairs at Students for Global Health UK, the largest student-led network in the UK and a national member organization of IFMSA. Her interests include child and adolescent health, health inequalities, social and environmental determinants of health, and wild swimming!
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