By Jamie Michel
Renata Schiavo, a public health and health communications specialist, spoke about health disparities across the country and the world at a Brown Bag lecture in Mayo Concert Hall on Friday, March 29.
Schiavo is the founder and CEO of Health Equity Initiative, whose mission is to build community, capacity and communication resources for health equity.
“Health Equity Initiative is committed to making a difference in people’s health and lives,” Schiavo said.
The ultimate goal of this organization is to create better chances for better health among disadvantaged groups.
However, some challenges arise in the face of this, as decades of growing public health crises have left society with more problems than solutions.
Health equity involves providing every person with the same opportunity to stay healthy, and/or effectively cope with disease and crisis regardless of socioeconomic conditions. It influences economic and social development, impacts people’s life opportunities, and is a basic human right.
“We are not just healthy or sick because of disease,” Schiavo said. “We are sick or healthy because of the environment.”
For instance living in a dangerous environment can prohibit someone from exercising outside.
If a person lives in an area where everything, specifically the doctor’s office, is far away but does not have access to a car, this situation can hinder his or her chances of getting the proper care.
Community also impacts a person’s health, according to Schiavo. At most fitness centers there are financial penalties for inactive membership.
Therefore those who join a gym are motivated to work out regularly because they are paying whether or not they use the facilities consistently.
Another factor that Schiavo stressed cannot be forgotten is the power of peer pressure. People are more likely to lead healthy lifestyles if they have friends or colleagues who encourage them and are also healthy.
Schiavo called for a health system-based approach, that consists of different people or resources working together toward a common goal.
So far, the Health Equity Initiative has created task forces on infant mortality prevention in four cities in the United States. The organization has developed resources accessible to other organizations, community groups and professionals.
Schiavo spoke of opportunities for getting involved in the Health Equity Initiative, such as joining the health equity exchange and going to their website to take their pledge.
“It is important to have brown bags like these,” said Divya Padgaonkar, junior sociology major. “The public should know about this issue because it applies to everyone.”
Schiavo concluded her presentation by saying, “Get involved! Share your stories! Talk about health equity!”
*This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the intent of the organization.