Health Care is Always a Human Right
By Christine Soyong Harley, Policy and Programs Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum is proudly taking part in the Health Equity Can’t Wait! blog carnival celebrating National Minority Health Month. Participating bloggers are health, consumer, women’s rights, and provider advocates committed to promoting health equity. You can find all the posts for the carnival here.
When I was two years old, while my parents were on a date night, I found one of my grandmother’s sleeping pills and swallowed it. When my parents called to check in, my uncle told them that I was “acting funny.” My father tells me that after rushing home, they found me limp and unresponsive; I couldn’t even lift my head. They had to rush me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped. For some reason, my father’s light-hearted way of telling this story never conveyed the reality of that evening. Then, a few years ago, my mother told her version, and I could feel the fear of a first-time parent, not sure whether her only daughter was going to survive. For the first time, I could imagine what it must be like to be a parent when your child’s life is in danger. Fortunately, my parents can speak English, are US citizens, and could take me to the hospital. But for many in this country, that isn’t the case.
Fast forward thirty years and I’m sitting in a room full of women leaders from around the country who are participating in the We Belong Together campaign. We’ve descended on Atlanta, Georgia after the passage of HB 87 and are listening to women and youth tell us how this law, one of several anti-immigrant “papers please” laws that have been passed by states, has drastically impacted their lives. The law has led to widespread racial profiling and harassment by local police officers, and the women were sharing their stories of being afraid to take their children to school, to call the police to report a crime, and of being forcibly separated from their children and families.
As we listened to these women, one story stood out for me. Alicia told us about her daughter, who at the age of 1, began to experience seizures. Georgia’s law makes it illegal to drive without a license, so Alicia told us that the only time that she risks driving is when she must take her daughter to the hospital during a seizure or other serious illness. One time, while driving her daughter to the hospital, she was caught in a police check-point and it was only due to a stranger’s sympathy and willingness to drive, that she was able to get her daughter the health care that she needed.
Listening to Alicia, it is crystal clear that health care is a critical, basic human right and one that no person in this country- indigenous, citizen, or immigrant- should ever be forced to go without. At the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), we believe that health care, including access to women’s comprehensive reproductive and preventive health care services, is a human right. That is why we support the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA), which builds on the Affordable Care Act to reduce barriers to health care for hard to reach populations and bring us one step closer to universal health care.
We know that some API communities are disproportionately less likely to have health insurance coverage and that many API women suffer from disparities in accessing preventive care services. As a result, some API women experience extraordinarily high rates of preventable diseases. Additionally, when approximately 60% of the API community is foreign-born, and many households speak English “not well,” we know that API patients with limited English proficiency struggle to communicate with health care providers. This affects their quality of care as well as their ability to understand prescription instructions and communicate about sensitive reproductive health matters.
These are health disparities that we have the resources, knowledge, and technology to prevent. No one should have to die from a preventable disease. No patient should have to worry that the language they speak will prevent them from telling their doctor what hurts. No parent should have to worry about being arrested for driving their infant child to the hospital for life-saving treatment.
At NAPAWF, we believe that health care is a human right and we are fighting to ensure that API women and other communities receive the health care they deserve.
*For PDF version of Christine Harley’s blog, click here.