Why Health Equity Matters Now More than Ever

Author K. Astre by K. Astre
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It’s been said again and again but these are truly unprecedented times. We are watching history unfold before our eyes at such a rapid rate that it can be hard to keep up with all of the changes. Everyone is dealing with different levels of stress right now as we navigate how to ride the wave of this ever-evolving new normal. It can be a lot to process. That’s why right now — perhaps more than ever — it’s so important to take care of ourselves the best we can. For some people, this is just a matter of sticking to a consistent routine, but for others, staying healthy is not as easy. In fact, for many minorities and people of color, traditional systems of healthcare can feel stacked against them. This is where health equity comes in.

What is Health Equity?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy focused solely on health, defines healthy equity as a fair and just opportunity for everyone to be as healthy as possible. For many people of color, there are obstacles that prevent them having access to basic health such as racial discrimination and the resulting consequences including poverty and lack of access to quality education, well-paying jobs, safe housing and healthcare. Health equity acknowledges social determinants that contribute to the creation of this disparity like historical legacy and power imbalance. However, having more access to resources needed to be as healthy as possible can begin to make a difference. 

The Systematic Marginalization of People of Color in Healthcare

Racial inequity in healthcare is far too common. A quick look at statistics will sadly show that on average people of color are not offered the same access to healthcare as others. There are implicit bias and racial disparities that have resulted in practices where people of color do not receive equivalent care as provided for other groups including a shockingly high rate of maternal mortality, suffering more from various diseases and premature death from heart disease. A recent report reveals that not only are African Americans more likely to be underinsured but they spend almost 20 percent of their income on health care annually. Also, racism has a physical impact on the body as it is a stressor that leads to wear and tear on the body as well as mental health.

What Does this Have to do with CBD and the Cannabis Industry?

In recent years, CBD has come to the forefront of ways for those who have felt marginalized by traditional systems of healthcare to heal themselves from the inside out. But, the connection between CBD and health equity goes back further than the recent understanding of racial discrimination within the cannabis industry. Historically, industrial hemp was able to flourish due to farmers exploiting enslaved people in states like Kentucky, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Even Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, forced slaves to cultivate hemp on his plantation (called Monticello) in Virginia. 

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At present, it’s important to remember this important fact. Even now people of color are disproportionately targeted for cannabis use where billions of dollars are spent on racially-biased arrests and their representation in leadership roles in cannabis companies is embarrassingly sparse. Because people are being arrested for non-criminal offenses and denied access to resources to improve their well-being, health equity is also a cannabis issue. 

What You Can Do to Take Steps Towards Healthy Equity

In order for there to be a big change, it will be necessary for there to be institutional changes made to many laws and policies that contribute to inequity. But there are things you can do as an individual to move the momentum in the right direction. 

A good place to start would be the Last Prisoner Project, an organization with a focus on cannabis reform, that offers a number of ways to contribute to their mission. You can get involved by volunteering or donating towards restorative justice. Otherwise, you can keep yourself educated about race and drug war and advocate for policies like changing police practices, rolling back harsh mandatory minimum sentences, and eliminating sentencing disparities on a local level.