Gov. Whitmer has noted in her health policy statement that all citizens are affected by many factors, such as genetics, environment, economy, and government policies. Also known as the “social determinants of health,” these factors influence the ability of a person to choose healthy behaviors and achieve access to the services they need to promote health and well-being. Inadequate housing, food insecurity, poor education, unemployment, unsafe neighborhoods, poorly designed communities, and polluted natural environment all impact the ability of people to achieve optimum health. In many cases, low-income and marginalized populations are afflicted by multiple social determinants, causing toxic stress and emotional disability, compounding their health problems.
Progressive health policy advocates have argued that health equity is one of the most important civil rights issues today. Health disparities among people of color continue to limit the ability of underserved populations to achieve optimum well-being.
Authority Health, a public agency commissioned by the State of Michigan, Wayne County, and the City of Detroit, preserves public health and promotes population health. Authority Health also creates population health solutions through convening advisory groups, data analytics, and providing community-based training for primary care physicians.
Authority Health supports the governor’s vision for ensuring a statewide solution to water affordability for low-income populations. These populations are likely to be African American. Through its convening process Authority Health has heard from community partners that water, as a natural resource essential to human life and health, should be provided regardless of ability to pay. Of course, that is a lofty goal, however solutions are often found by starting with the ideal and ending with a solution that at least better meets the needs of the people we serve.
In addition, the state has been a leader in providing expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income people, many of whom have low paying jobs that limit their ability to afford health insurance. Authority Health has had concerns about the institution of work rules for the Healthy Michigan Plan. We believe that such regulations must be administered humanely, and that job training and volunteer options should be encouraged.
Ultimately, Authority Health believes that ensuring health equity for racial minorities and other vulnerable populations through a health in all policies approach is the best way to preserve public health and promote population health.