For any person, health is wealth. After all, what’s more vital to a successful life than being a healthy human?

Released by San Diego Foundation (SDF) last October, the San Diego Economic Equity Report is full of sobering statistics – unveiling issues across the region, including health inequities. The research, produced by San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center (SDRPIC), reveals a stark contrast in health issues, many varying by race.

Daniel Enemark, Chief Economist at SDRPIC, found one of the drivers of these inequities is the lack of access to affordable healthcare.

Lack of Health Insurance

Health insurance plays a critical role in protecting an individual’s physical and financial health. But, as the San Diego Economic Equity Report found, not everyone has equal access.

More than 200,000 people in San Diego County lack health insurance. Black San Diegans, specifically, are twice as likely to lack health insurance. Latino community members are four times as likely.

“That number should be zero,” Enemark said. “To be in good health requires access to healthcare. That requires insurance so you can pay for it, right? It’s just a small fraction of people that this economy is working adequately for. But we want a system that works equitably for all people.”

San Diego healthcare provider, TrueCare, was founded on health equity in 1971. More than 60% of TrueCare patients are Medi-Cal recipients, and more than 20% of patients are uninsured.

Male patient talking to doctor

Longtime clinician, Mimi Mateo, CNM, MSN, CDE, said lack of healthcare access can have a significant impact on a person’s health. She believes this is due to structural inequities built into the healthcare system.

“Our underlying mission and belief is that healthcare is a human right,” Mateo said. “Lack of access to care has resulted in increasing numbers of chronic disease states. Folks who have been marginalized and are struggling with social determinants of health – there’s a cycle that gets perpetuated and (they) don’t come in for healthcare because of ways they’ve been treated.”

Social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. They have a major impact on people’s health, well-being, and quality of life. Examples include safe housing, transportation and neighborhoods; racism, discrimination and violence; education, job opportunities and income; access to nutritious foods and physical activity opportunities; polluted air and water; and language and literacy skills, among others.

Mateo acknowledged that many people without health insurance wind up with health conditions that lead to trauma that is ongoing and passed down through generations.

Healthy Equity Begins at Birth

One of the many health inequities found by the San Diego Economic Equity Report includes low birthweight among specific communities.

“Perhaps the starkest example is that children born to Black parents are twice as likely to be low birthweight when they’re born,” said Enemark. “You start out behind the rest of the pack before you’re even born.”

According to the report, low-weight births are associated with poor health outcomes for both baby and parent. Its findings reveal people of all other races are at least 20% more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby than White San Diegans.

Similar inequities exist for life expectancy in San Diego. White San Diegans live five years longer than Black San Diegans.

“When you look at life expectancy and see this dramatic difference, it’s really sobering,” Enemark said.

Healthy Community, Healthy Economy

Patient talking to nurse

Research and statistics show addressing these inequities leads to not only healthier individuals, but a more thriving economy.

“Living under constant stress is bad for you. Highlighting these differences is not just about philanthropy and what’s the right thing to do,” Enemark said. “It’s also about our economy and what’s the wise thing to do.”

Mateo believes better health means better wellbeing, more productivity and innovation.

“All of us are better served if we work together to make sure that everyone is healthy enough to live their best life,” she said. “It takes a community to care for a community.”

Interested in learning more about economic equity in San Diego?

Read the San Diego Economic Equity Report.