Being healthy is a privilege. There is often a misconception that those who fall under the category of being “unhealthy” are simply careless or lazy, but that is simply not the case. Sometimes things aren’t as they seem, sometimes we truly don’t understand the complexity of people stories… of people's lives. There are so many factors that come into play, some of which I have experienced personally.
As a country we repeatedly continue to put our efforts towards tertiary prevention, in other words trying to fix a problem that already exists, instead of investing in primary prevention and impeding conditions from occurring in the first place. As a health educator in the community one of the biggest barriers that I’ve witnessed is lack of health literacy. I am currently serving with Tobacco Free Jacksonville, as a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member, and part of my position is to attend health fairs, conferences, and other events to educate the community on the detrimental effects of tobacco use. Often times many of the people that I come across make decisions for their health on the basis of false information. When it comes to tobacco products, especially vapes and other electronic cigarettes, people are very misinformed and part of the reason is the somewhat positive representation that the media gives these products. Young people specifically get most of their information from social media, where they are given misleading information. Whether it be education about tobacco, sexual health, mental health, or prenatal care it is extremely important that people are learning the facts, that resources are providing accurate information in order for communities to make healthier decisions for themselves.
Not all communities are the same, and neither are the methods and factors that come into play when they are making decisions for themselves and those they love. A huge problem that some people face, especially people of color, is the disconnect in communication between provider and patient. The lack of cultural competency can cause providers to not give their patients the best services and treatments. It is important for health care providers to listen to their patients and take in account factors that specifically apply to their lives, such as level of oppression and spiritual beliefs. As a woman of color myself, and the daughter of immigrants, I have found it critical to advocate for my family within the healthcare system so they feel comfortable, safe, and heard when it comes to their health.
I am so blessed to be given the opportunity to share my knowledge with others in the community and play a role in helping them make decisions that will positively impact their lives.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Maggie DoValle.
Maggie serves at Tobacco Free Jacksonville as a Health Educator.