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Health Disparities in New Zealand from a Marxist Perspective Essay

In New Zealand society there many are people who encounter with Health disabilities and issues that do not only impact their wellbeing but also their lives. However the majority of them cannot control their Health situation due to their lifestyle, in addition to this problem the distribution of Health services contribute to the creation of ‘Health Disparities’. In this essay I will classify Heath Disparities in New Zealand from a Marxist perspective, where it will become visible that Health inequality within our country lies in the structure of society.

However our society is constructed through social stratification which is the process where people are classed in the hierarchical system; based on superiority and subordination (Llewellyn, A. , Agu, L. , & Mercer, D. 2008). This technique of classing society contributes to why inequalities exist today. I will focus on how Marxist’s perspective integrates the structure of capitalism and social class in society where it influences Health in New Zealand.

Inequalities within health are distinguished between different population groups, where there is variance in a group’s health or health care (Reid & Robson, 2006). This is caused by gender, ethnicity, age, environment and economic status (Howden- Chowden, 2005). Health disparities in New Zealand conflict with the structure of society, however it is logical that in order to have an impact on society we must hold power (Dew & Kirkman, 2007). This brings us to the Marxist perspective where Karl Marx (1818-1883) focused his research on the development of capitalists (Cree, 2010).

The rise of capitalism originated from the modes of production, which relates to the way society organises production of material and also enables surplus value to become generated (McLennan, McManus & Spoonly, 2010). Capitalism within New Zealand is based on the operation of production allowing the continuation of profit to increase for owners; however this means superiority constructs society in a manner where it will benefit them while alienating other classes (Dew & Kirkman, 2007).

Marxist’s main focus of capitalism is class structure where the process of social stratification comes into place. An individual’s status in the class structure is measured through their socio-economic status, this can also be calculated by the amount of power they have in society (Llewellyn, Agu & Mercer, 2008). Through the Marxist theory we come to an understanding of the development of low income that workers earn through production.

The functions of capitalism and class structure identifies that individuals whom receive low income, is impacted in every domain of their lives this includes health. Health inequalities are strongly influenced by socio-economic differences which expose’s factors such as income, housing, diet and occupational toxin as high impacts on a person’s health. Through the Marxist perspective we understand that capitalism’s main focus is based within the growth of profit, however the power that capitalist’s (known as owners of production) hold influences the health of their workers.

Capitalists have control over wages; work hours and the environment of workers (Newman, 2008) they also go to the extent of exploitation and alienation in order for their profits to increase (McLennan, McManus & Spoonly, 2010). Workers face the effects of class consciousness (McLennan, McManus & Spoonly, 2010) they become competitive and are blinded from realizing that they are being over worked and at the same time under paid. Proletariats become vulnerable to ill health through poor working conditions and also lack of freedom (Howden- Chowden, 2005).

For example lack of freedom in their work environment can lead proletariats to stress and fatigue illnesses. Health disabilities such as chronic illness, toxic appearance in an individual’s immune system and also serious accidents are caused from poor working conditions (Howden- Chowden, 2005). Capital is known to be a factor that contributes to human misery and alienation, which leads to health disabilities. Health Disparities within our society varies throughout the different levels of class.

The class structure consists of two main levels which are Bourgeoisie; the highest class that contains capitalists and individuals who hold power. The Proletariat class is for workers in production, and who have no power (Joseph, 2006). Health services within New Zealand are distributed unevenly where it benefits the wealthy (Bourgeoisie) and excludes others such as the Proletariats (Dew & Kirkman, 2007). Although health services in our society are available for everyone’s use, it is imbalanced within the quality.

For example individuals in the upper class have access to higher quality services, such as private insurance and specialists (Dew & Kirkman, 2007). However through research it has become more apparent that workers have the highest exposure to ill health (Howden- Chowden, 2005) this means they need this service more than others but it is not affordable. The gradients of avoidable and unavoidable death rates are very different; Proletariats have high rates within avoidable deaths, this means that the majority of deaths could have been avoided through medical consultation.

As for the Bourgeoisie class it is at high rates of unavoidable deaths, although they’ve received quality treatment it cannot be cured (Dew & Kirkman, 2007). Inequalities within social class have different influences on an individual’s health, in particularly the quality of health provided for each class level. Through the development of capitalism and social class, it’s obvious that the creation of ‘low income’ becomes one of the main attribute to health disparities.

Proletariats that encounter this issue have higher risks of low life expectancy and also a high mortality rate (Howden- Chowden, 2005) they are also forced to live in high levels of Deprivation (Dew & Kirkman, 2007). This situation does not only impact workers but also their families, where living in a damp cold home increases vulnerability of ill health such as cardiovascular diseases (Howden- Chowden, 2005). Low income also influences a family’s diet as they can only afford food that are high in calories and low in nutrition, this leads to morbid obesity and also Diabetes (Howden- Chowden, 2005).

By understanding the impacts of low income in an individual’s life we also recognize that low income leads to poverty. Through the notion of Marxist’s perspective of health disparities within our country, it is understandable that in order to unravel this issue the system within society must change. This can transpire by establishing additional organisations that hold a responsibility to support population groups who encounter with health disabilities but cannot afford health services; this will support families in debt and also decrease health inequalities.

Our system needs to improve their public services where it is affordable yet good quality, allowing workers to receive health support in order to maintain an occupation to provide for their families. Improvement of health services available for workers is extremely important not only for themselves but also for capitalist, as they will decrease in profit if workers become ill and lose jobs. If this process continues it will come to a point where capitalists increase their surplus value impacting other workers, where exploitation and alienation will intensify.

By having the capability to unpack health disparities from a Marxist perspective, we are able to understand that inequalities in New Zealand health mainly impact the working class. Where the construction of society makes it visible that low income is the central foundation of health disparities, and also poverty. We need to understand that the only way out of inequality not only in health care, but in general is through improvement of the system. Kevin Dew and Allison Kirkman (2005, pp. 241) stated “People are not poor because they are sick, they are sick because they are poor. ”

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