Occupy Healthcare but don’t forget about the Social Determinants of Health

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has opened up many opportunities to make clear the links between economic inequalities and inequalities in health. A growing number of doctors, nurses, patient advocates, and public health professionals are taking advantage of these opportunities and drawing attention to a range of health concerns. However, conversations and actions so far have largely focused on issues of access to healthcare, medical debt, cuts to healthcare budgets, and the pitfalls of for-profit medical systems.

One of the biggest health related actions of the Movement took place on October 26th when Healthcare for the 99% (a coalition of physician unions, nurses unions, and various healthcare campaign groups) organized a march in New York City against the for-profit health insurance industry. Just yesterday, a group of health advocates in Boston organized a Health Justice Day of Action where in addition to a variety of health focused events, a team of volunteers dispensed free flu shots. In the UK, protesters in Cambridge occupied the offices of the Healthcare firm Atos, and on Twitter, the hashtags  #occupyhealthcare and #occupyhealth document  that more and more people are making the link between economic inequalities and healthcare related concerns.

Less visible in the Movement are messages about the social determinants of health (SDOH).  The need for better integration of SDOH messages have been noted by blogger Nate Osit, who emphasizes the need for a more global SDOH outlook in occupying efforts, and blogger Vinu Ilakkuvan, who has written about the need to move ‘beyond healthcare’ and highlighted examples of successful efforts toward this end. However, SDOH concerns aren’t completely absent from the Movement. The People’s Health Movement has stepped up to endorse the Occupy Wall Street Movement, directing attention to the importance of SDOH and urging its affiliates to “participate in this movement to overcome ill-health caused by social, political and economic systems that reproduce inequality and social injustice”. Moreover, “a group of (mostly) San Francisco Bay Area health professionals, providers, students, and advocates” have developed an Occupy Public Health site which includes, among other great resources, a lesson plan for teaching occupiers about the SDOH.

In an effort to support occupying actions directed at the social determinants of health, Healthy Policies will be hosting a Twitter chat tomorrow (Monday November 14th) on how SDOH messages can be better integrated into the Occupy Healthcare movement.  This chat is part of a larger effort organized by the IMAXI group, who are coordinating a series of social media events to bring people together to discuss the state of the world’s health every Monday, from the 14th of November until Human Rights Day a month later.

The Twitter chat will begin at 3PMEST/20hGMT and last for 30 minutes. To view the chat search Twitter for #SDOHchat; to participate, tweet your thoughts, adding  ‘#SDOHchat’ to your tweet.  A transcript of the chat will be made available shortly afterwards.

One thought on “Occupy Healthcare but don’t forget about the Social Determinants of Health

  1. Good ways to start the discussion:
    – Massive and repeated viewings of “Unnatural Causes – is Inequality Making us Sick?” Most public health schools have a copy. Recruit the Harvard SPH profs who are featured in it to do a teach-in! I think one of the episodes – focused on job support, etc. – is still free streaming online
    – Watch the TED talk and/or review other data from http://www.equalitytrust.co.uk

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