Social justice is a term applied to those discriminated against because of their race, gender, education, or other quality. While social justice was once only associated with activists, it has become a more broadly recognizable term that most healthcare leaders are taking into account not only when treating individual patients but while forming community initiatives, treatment regimens, and overarching care policies as well.
Social justice can also be called a human rights theory and an approach to healthcare. Some strive to provide services that promote equality, fairness, and dignity, which sometimes includes health care. Health care for all, caring for people of all ages and at all stages in life, is a theme that many health care professionals appreciate.
For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) is 95 years old and strives to achieve the highest attainable health standards for everyone. This theme is often addressed with the WHO’s three key areas for action: promoting health, eradicating disease, and improving quality of life.
It is imperative that the medical community collectively pursue socially just healthcare for all, as it will:
Improve health outcomes.
Decrease health care expenditures.
Reduce unnecessary treatment.
Decrease hospital readmissions.
Decrease health care costs.
Increase population coverage (if not self-insured).
Egalitarianism is an important goal that anyone working in healthcare should try to achieve. Although some may view this as difficult or idealistic, achieving egalitarianism is made possible by ensuring that more people get a fair share of medical care. An example of this is bringing down the cost of medication, offering affordable healthcare solutions to all communities, and offering health education to ensure all individuals understand their rights. To do this, we must address several areas of action.
First and foremost, to eliminate discrimination in society and address health inequalities, one’s quality of life should be a top priority. Broadly, there is a need to ensure that this goal is achieved in every community, for every person, regardless of their existing conditions, ability to pay, or any other criterion.
To do this, everyone ought to have an equal opportunity to access health care and a safe environment during medical emergencies. Additionally, all patients should have adequate health education and information before obtaining preventive care.
Decentralization is another important step towards social justice in healthcare. This approach enables people to take control of health matters and provide for themselves. When people are empowered with information and provided with equal access to healthcare, their rights are respected. This is crucial to solving matters of social justice and bridging the chasm that prevents our society from achieving health equity.
Frank R. Harrison
Host of Frank About Health