Peanuts Man

The Gaps in Wealth and Poverty, Obesity and Health

If you are paying attention to the disparities in wealth, poverty, health, and obesity, you might note that there’s good news and bad news to be found right now. On the good news side of things, the global inequality of wealth shrank in 2022. That happened for two reasons. People in some of the poorest countries in the world have been accumulating a bit more wealth. But the wealth gap also shrank in 2022 because the wealthiest folks in the world saw their wealth shrink in 2022.

We have also seen the gap in health service between rich and poor women, newborns, and children in low and middle income countries shrink by half. Here in the U.S., the rate of people without health insurance hit a record low early this year. A big contributor was attention to health equity that was front and center during the COVID pandemic.

But the bad news is that the attention may be fading. Advocates for health equity are bracing for reversals in recent progress as millions may lose coverage by Medicaid in coming months. This is due to the expiration of protections for enrollment. Those protections were tied to the pandemic and as the pandemic fades, so do the protections.

Disparities in Obesity and Access to Care

Research has documented disparities in both the health burden of obesity and in access to obesity care. Tiffani Bell Washington explained recently:

“Disparities in disease prevalence mirror similar inequality in access to quality obesity care and stem from many places, including poor access to care, inability to access quality obesity care with obesity-trained physicians and clinicians, and decreased rate of receiving a diagnosis of obesity. Despite research supporting the use of lifestyle modification in addition to weight loss medications and surgery, when necessary, there is decreased utilization in persons with lower socioeconomic status or who are ethnic minorities.”

The availability of advanced obesity medicines that only the wealthy and extremely well-insured can afford promises to magnify these disparities. Some state Medicaid programs have started covering new obesity medicines, but most have not. Employers are cutting back on their coverage of obesity medicines because of high list prices.

Until we see a better supply of these drugs and lower prices, these disparities will only grow wider. Humanity cannot prosper with such extreme gaps in wealth and health.

Click here for more on the shrinking wealth gap, here for more on the global health gap, and here for more on the disparities in obesity and obesity care.

Peanuts Man, photograph by Umesh Sapkota, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

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August 23, 2023