Health Privilege

This blog is here to unpack ideas that I’ve had. Those can be ideas for inventions, films, children’s books, or businesses. But lately I’ve been having a lot of ideas that are just concepts – concepts I personally haven’t heard anyone else talk about yet.

After writing a long and passionate blog about healthy privilege today, I realized it already exists like all over the place. So.

In today’s Venn diagram, I see the current social injustice sweeping our country in one circle, and February’s unpalatable smorgasbord of illness in another circle, intersecting with an idea I’ve been harboring in the back of my mind for a while.

The idea first came to me when one of many people in my life told me they just “don’t do” doctors. My first thought was: that must be nice for you.

Many people, no matter the hair on their chest or their testicular fortitude, still had to go to the doctor because they were like, not breathing or something.

It didn’t matter how much they rejected the ideology of the greedy medical system, man, or how good they were at using the right herbal “all natural” solutions. They had to go to the doctor because they had a disease. They suffered from an ailment urgent and serious enough that no nutritional supplement could treat it and no amount of biohacking could remove their need for medical care.

Another giant display of health privilege: not vaccinating your children.

There are ways our world is not set up for the unhealthy, or even just populations who are vulnerable. After I had this idea, I Googled it, knowing someone else must have written about it. I did find a piece on how Silicon Valley can sometimes ignore the unhealthy folks when designing their health apps (here).

An obvious retort to my snowflaking about the unhealthy is Darwinism: obviously, the sick and old die off and we expect the young and healthy to run things around here. Survival of the fittest.

But even the “I don’t go to the doctor” people themselves have been in a vulnerable state of health: childhood. And they will be in a vulnerable state of health again: old age. And if this “I don’t go to the doctor” person is a woman, she might also get pregnant. At those times in our lives, we were lucky enough to be protected somehow, some way. When we are then able to protect others, it’s my belief that we should.

Your health privilege can show in small ways. It can be that person who “rallies” when they have a cold and goes to work anyway. They might feel like a hero, but what they don’t realize is that they’ve spread their germs all over work, gym and the library. It might only be a minor cold to them, but to someone with a compromised immune system or for a pregnant lady, it could be unbearable. Pregnant ladies can’t take cold medicine!!!! (extra exclamation points added for how crappy I remember this being)

I’m not saying that we all need to stop the world when we have a cold. But you would be surprised how many people just forget to wash their hands an extra awful lot when they’re sick. Maybe stay home if you can swing it; and if you can’t, just try not to cough on people, ok? If you’re visiting Grandma or your pregnant cousin, give them a heads up that you’ve been sick and don’t want to get them sick.

Sometimes it’s really hard. When we’re sick, we’re not always thinking clearly, and we’re programmed to want human comfort. Just try to remember: that’s letting the germs win! I’m not writing this from a place of judgment; I’m writing to remind myself as well. I recently gave my sister the stomach flu ON HER BIRTHDAY. Awful does not describe the word adequately enough of how I felt.

But I’m getting a little away from my main point here, and the reason I think this idea is worth sharing: many of the people who want to abolish the Affordable Care Act hide behind this “I don’t go to the doctor” mentality. I’m healthy, so why should I shell out for other “slackers”? Well, many people who stand to lose their health insurance are tiny adorable babies and sweet old grandmothers. I don’t think anyone would call them freeloaders.

I just want them to know that their privilege is showing.

Plus, to put it in jerky terms, people who are unhealthy will cost us a lot less if we provide them with adequate care in the first place, instead of waiting until they’re so sick they need some kind of emergency care that they can’t pay for.

So, if you’re healthy, congratulate yourself for what you’ve done to get yourself here. And then also feel grateful for your luck.



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