Healthcare and Social Justice

By Sydney Mayfield



Mayfield S. Healthcare and social justice . HPHR. 2023;77.

Healthcare and Social Justice

The two most critical issues facing the intersection of healthcare and social justice are environmental health disparities and healthcare affordability. In general, poor communities which disproportionately are minority, are often most affected by environmental health disparities. An article by the Berkeley Public Health Institute1 suggests that people of color are more likely to be exposed to pollution which is a direct product of systematic racism. This is a significant health crisis because pollution affects the human respiratory system, making people of color more susceptible to respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

Additionally, environmental racism plays a huge role because communities of color are often exposed to hazardous environmental conditions such as water pollution and industrial facilities. Due to unjust policies, these communities have historically been targets for polluting industries to build factories.2


Economic disparity is also a considerable issue within minority communities. Housing discrimination, and lack of political power and representation are issues that stem from the economic disparities within communities of color. Frequently minorities are pushed to live in concentrated urban areas.2 These areas are more likely to have more highly concentrated polluted air and even sometimes water. Jobs such as manufacturing and transportation often have higher pollution levels; these are jobs that people of color disproportionately hold. Some of these industries expose them to many hazardous chemicals, pollution being one of them.4


Lastly, people of color are less likely to hold positions in political offices which is problematic because there are few advocates who truly understand the challenges of communities of color. We continuously watch health and living conditions decline in these with little to no action from lawmakers. If there were more diversity within political offices, we would start to reverse and possibly eliminate the effects of pollution within communities of color.


In many countries, healthcare is costly and not easily accessible to all. Not only is healthcare expensive if you do not have insurance, but it can also make going to the doctor a nightmare if you have to choose between basic living expenses or healthcare. The lack of access to healthcare prevents people from receiving medical attention and sometimes even emergency care. Healthcare being more affordable would save so many more lives. Making insurance systems more accessible to the general public would also allow more people to receive the necessary treatment.


Addressing the intersection of healthcare and social justice requires a multifaceted approach. This approach involves addressing systemic issues and increasing awareness. By improving access to healthcare and eliminating environmental health disparities, we can work towards a more just and equitable healthcare system for all.


  1. Berkeley Public Health Institute. (n.d.). People of color hardest hit by air pollution from nearly all sources. Berkeley Public Health. Retrieved March 11, 2023, from people-of-color-hardest-hit-by-air-pollution-from-nearly-all-sources/
  2. University of Pittsburgh Climate and Global Change Center. (n.d.). Environmental Injustice: Roots, Impacts, and Urgent Solutions. University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved March 12, 2023, from environmental-injustice-roots-impacts-and-urgent-solutions
  3. Austin, A. (2013, July 22). African Americans are still concentrated in neighborhoods with high poverty and still lack full access to decent housing. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved March 12, 2023, from
  4. Tabuchi, H., & Popovich, N. (2021, April 28). People of Color Breathe More Hazardous Air. The Sources Are Everywhere. The New York Times.

About the Author

Sydney Mayfield