Contributors: Gurveer Gill and Navu Kaur
Educational achievement and disparities in health are closely related. A proper and wholesome education predicts a similar lifestyle and a healthy individual. To a certain extent, education has the possibility of solving, or at the very least, helping to increase life expectancy, enhance quality of life, reduce illnesses, delay the repercussions of aging, and decrease risky behavior. With an abundance of evidence that proves education is an important determinant of health, one would think that a greater priority is placed on educating the community and reaching out to the general public about overcoming this ongoing struggle of health disparities.
Disparities must be addressed, changes must be made, and current knowledge must be applied to implement programs that can combat health disparities. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) has taken on an initiative called Healthy People 2020. The initiative focuses on developing science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. It has been addressing health disparities in numerous ways to meet objectives for the decade from 2010-2020 that include achieving health equity, eliminating disparities, and improving the health of all groups. The focus on Educational and Community Based Programs encompasses efforts to prevent disease and injury, improve health, and enhance the quality of life. These programs are designed to reach populations outside of the medical and clinical setting such as schools, worksites, and healthcare facilities in order to target a greater variety of individuals. Influences across multiple interrelated social structures (personal, institutional, environmental) determine health behaviors, which is why targeting these programs at all levels of social structures will yield better success and maximize impact.
Educational and community based programs are used to educate communities on topics such as diseases, mental health, violence prevention, nutrition, and physical activity. Increasing the quality, availability, and the effectiveness of these community-based programs will ultimately lead to disease prevention and improving overall health.
MedEq is one such community-based program. MedEq’s mission is to launch a student initiative that promotes health equity and help to decrease these health disparities in our community. Our Wayne State University chapter has many amazing community-based programs started in regards to specific health disparities, one of them being education. Team Education MedEq members volunteer at local Detroit Public System High Schools and help with the enrichment activities as well as present to the high school students about all aspects of higher education (the importance, steps on applying, etc). Our goal is to increase high school graduation rates and ensure that the students are college and career ready, making sure they have a plan for their future. Another example is our social construct team providing after-school academic help and physical activity programs for students that may otherwise have nowhere else to be. However, schools are only one of our target populations. Our environmental, oral health, mental health and food disparities teams are just as involved in other social structures within our community.