By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
A Harvard University medical study found that once public health disparities such as age, socioeconomic factors, and access to health insurance are evened out, the effects of chronic disease are improved. Unfortunately, based on the current health care design, most patients will have to wait until they are 65 years old and become eligible for Medicare coverage in order to see these improvements. The moral of the study appears to be an obvious one – when health care coverage is universal, so are the patient outcomes. The study showed racial disparities in systolic blood pressure readings decreasing by 60 percent, and educational disparities in diabetes and high cholesterol also improving those results.
For nurses and travel nurses who have studied public health, this is barely news. Nurses learn in the public health segments of our nursing education how factors such as socioeconomic differences, race, income, age and other trends, have the power to shape patient health patterns in a community. It stands to reason that if every patient, regardless of those factors, has equal access to the same amount and quality of health care, that the patient outcomes should eventually grow more similar. Is this a reasonable argument for universal health care? From a patient care standpoint, yes. From the financial angle, I still find it nearly impossible to envision how such a plan could be implemented.
In the meantime, travel nurses have a unique opportunity to act as unofficial public health nurse researchers and ambassadors. They can observe the communities they work in across the country, and see for themselves what may happen when every patient, regardless of financial and other factors, has the same access to good health.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.