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Provision of quality health care does not only encompass the medical practice but also includes human values such as social justice. Supporting those people who are living in low-income areas and who are under the increased risk of injuries becomes a priority for a community nurse that has a goal to improve the lives of many people and make sure that underserved areas are provided with an appropriate level of healthcare. My personal experience in working in the Durham Region Health Department DRHD, I reflected based on the nurses’ experiences and the data they collected have supported my beliefs that quality healthcare should be evenly distributed across all social layers to ensure equal treatment and care for all.
Description of the Experience
I did not have hands-on experience, but I will be discussing the information I gathered from a nurse, who has worked with people in Oshawa and information I collected from the Durham Public Health website. After reviewing what the public department has done in association with the promotion of social justice in the low-income region of Durham, Oshawa, has been rewarding in many ways. As related to my practice, understanding how DRHD provides support for underserved individuals who have restricted access to healthcare opened my eyes to many problems that people experience in their everyday life, not only with regards to healthcare.
For example, the unemployment rate in Downtown Oshawa is 15.5%; the teenage pregnancy rate is 111.1 per 1,000; 42.6% of children aged less than six years old live in low-income households while the overall percentage of residents in low-income households is 28.1%. Furthermore, the median after-tax income in this area is $32,500 and is the lowest in Durham Region (Calis, 2016). These figures speak for themselves; such statistics were the key factor that contributed to the exploration of social justice concepts and ideas in my practice.
The most meaningful component of this experience related to seeing how the nurses communicate with people, identify the main healthcare-related issues, bringing the existing inequities to light, and discovering the ways in which social disparities could be eliminated. A rewarding experience for me was the understanding how the DRDH public health nurses’ teach low-income households about their rights to quality healthcare as well as how they can administer first aid in critical situations.
According to the report of OSHA (2014), construction workers have an extremely high rate of occupational injuries, so it is important to address the risks they experience at work and develop a cohesive action plan for preventing injuries in the workplace. Sadly, when it comes to workers from low-income households, they often have a lower life expectancy, quality of life, and worth health compared to the individuals with a higher income; for them, salaries are the concern prioritized to health issues (The Health of the Low-income Workforce: Integrating Public Health and Occupational Health Approaches, 2011).
Analysis of the Experience
According to the research for World Health Organization conducted by Prah (2010), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights guarantees the “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” (para. 1). This principle influenced the way I felt when reviewing the Durham website in Oshawa because I noticed that not everyone had been granted the right to enjoy the highest standard of health. While the government provides its citizens with emergency services, many low-income individuals that require treatment are not eligible for compensation because of the absence of insurance.
Overall, the low-income population is known to face inequalities in terms of access to healthcare services (The Health of the Low-income Workforce: Integrating Public Health and Occupational Health Approaches, 2011). In fact, accessibility is one of the five primary health care principles, and in the case of the underserved populations, it is unfulfilled. The provision of accessible health services is necessary to minimize the health risks of the low-income households and improve their quality of life.
If I were to educate families on what they could do to address the problem of social injustice in healthcare, I do not think many of them would respond well and may state that without financial help no one would listen to their needs. In my opinion, this thought would be prevalent among people because of their past experiences with health care and when they could not access it in time and remained underserved (AAFP, 2016).
While the process of learning more about inequalities in healthcare in the low-income region and understanding how public health nurses teach the community about how to overcome them was rewarding in many ways, there is still doubt whether the local government will adhere to the proposed changes (Gostin & Powers, 2006). Some members of the community may be very receptive to the information and care provided to them, although they may doubt that there would be some changes for the better.
Therefore, the community should cooperate with the local social justice agencies to acquire support in raising awareness about the inequities in healthcare and demanding equal healthcare standards for all, regardless of income. The statistical data on the low-income area of Oshawa informed me a lot about the problems communities encounter on a daily basis.
Personal Areas for Development
According to the article written by Grace and Willis (2012), social justice is asserted as a responsibility of the nursing professionals, who should educate themselves about implementing social justice in practice, following the essential dimensions of well-being, and promoting equal standards for providing high-quality healthcare for all representatives of the community. By exploring the Durham Public Health department’s website and reviewing the data they have, understanding the Oshawa area had a great impact on my personal and professional development because I saw that the ethical principles taught to community nurses are rarely reflected in reality when it comes to the underserved and low-income areas.
Ethics and social justice are problems of secondary concern when families struggle with earning money, have no shelter, or are forced to work in dangerous conditions to earn at least a minimal income. The idea that everyone has a right to equal treatment and a high standard of life becomes impossible to accomplish without the financial help from the outside (Canada Health Act and Its Principles, 2007).
It has become instrumental for me as a nurse to acquire more knowledge about enhancing my understanding of social justice within the context of healthcare as well as raise awareness about how can the ethical guidelines lead me to taking up other social justice endeavours (Canada Nurses Association, 2009). I would like to work with a community that struggles to live a decent life. This experience will teach me a lot about what is really valuable in life – not financial aids, but the ability to live comfortably while being treated with respect.
I think mothers want their children to be provided with appropriate accommodations in school as well as free healthcare; seniors need more community-based services that will assist them. These communities should have recognition, care, support, and equal treatment with regards to access to healthcare services.
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The experience of understanding how public health nurses work with low-income communities in Durham Region has provided me with extensive knowledge about key problems people face. There is an increased need for offering equal access to healthcare for all members of the public, especially low-income individuals at risk of injuries. Implications for future practice are associated with finding ways to address the needs of low-income communities and cooperating with key stakeholders to raise awareness of the most significant problems and subsequently seeking support.
AAFP. (2016). Underserved Populations Struggle with Poverty, Disparities in Health Care. Web.
Calis, K. (2016). Knowing the neighbourhoods: Seven low-income neighbourhoods a priority in Durham Region. Web.
Canada Health Act and Its Principles. (2007). Web.
Canadian Nurses Association. (2009). Ethics in practice for Registered Nurses. Web.
Gostin, L., & Powers, M. (2006). What does social justice require for the public’s health? Public health ethics and policy imperatives. Health Affairs, 25(4), 1053-1060.
Grace, P., & Willis, D. (2012). Nursing responsibilities and social justice: An analysis in support of disciplinary goals. Nursing Outlook, 60(4), 198-207.
OSHA. (2014). Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Web.
Prah, R. (2010). Health and social justice. Web.