Things a culture considers important strongly influence the health of its people. Some cultures promote beliefs and values that adversely affect the health and well-being of people in certain communities. For example, in a culture that equates the degree of a person’s worthwhileness and deservingness with one’s material wealth, power, status and race is likely to judge poor, weak, “lower class” people of color as unworthy and undeserving and treat them accordingly. Conversely, it would be unlikely for people in a culture that values the virtues of empathy and self-sacrifice for the common good to judge others as less worthy and deserving.
One recent survey found that the U.S. “…public overall is about evenly divided over which has more to do with why a person is rich: 45% say it is because he or she worked harder than most people, while 43% say it is because they had more advantages in life than others.” The results differed by respondents’ income, educational level and party affiliation.
Likewise, many believe that people are poor because they have personality characteristics such as laziness, which is a personal failure that results in poverty. They believe that people who are worthy are rewarded, so those who fail to reap rewards must lack self-worth. This meritocratic view is entrenched within U.S. thought and results in resistance to social and economic programs such as welfare. After all, the belief that a poor person’s lack of prosperity shows a personal failing means that s/he should not be rewarded by public benefits. https://tinyurl.com/y8h7yjhz
Or should our society do more to help improve the social and economic conditions of disadvantaged communities that deny people healthy lives? Should we, for example, consider social determinants of health--such as good healthcare, nutrition and education--to be a right for all?