Health = Luck + privilege

Waaseyaa comes to the emergency department with a chronic cough and wheeze. 

Because he has poorly managed asthma. 

Because he doesn’t take his medications regularly. 

Because he can’t easily access his primary care provider. 

Because his parents don’t have reliable transportation. 

Because his parents are poor. 

Because they face institutional racism, struggle with unresolved trauma, and lack social support.

Can you see the consequences of the way we think about health? Because we overlook the underlying factors, we miss opportunities to really make a difference for some people. We attribute too much to genetics, we’re quick to pass judgment and we’re far too dismissive of the things that get in the way of good health.

We underestimate the role we could play in society, and we overestimate the role of our health care systems in determining who’s healthy and who struggles for it.

We like to believe in the idea that health is a major function of health care systems, and that the world around us doesn’t matter. The truth is, our health is inextricably connected to where we come from, who are parents are, what we eat, where we work, where we live and what we look like.

Those who enjoy the best health are the ones who have better jobs, live in better communities, eat better food, and have better support – the kinds of opportunities that lead to even better wellbeing.

It’s up to us to decide whether it’s nursing’s role to replace luck of the draw and accumulating privileges with basic rights and better opportunities for all.