by Adrienne Pollack, Food Policy Research Intern
With 2014 swiftly approaching, I have directed more attention toward the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More popularly known as Obamacare, ACA launched in 2010 to provide universal, affordable health insurance—a few of the law’s reforms took effect in 2010, and the rest of the law will phase into effect come 2014 (precise information available on the US Department of Health Services Website). Throughout my research, I’ve read numerous opinion articles on what was wrong with healthcare before, what Obamacare will fix and who will be affected in which way, but with CFJC’s focus in food justice I saw some parallels between food justice and healthcare access. The ACA seeks to regulate health insurance to make it accessible for all populations in the United States. We at CFJC work with food justice in a similar way; we hope to fix our broken food system in order to make healthy, wholesome food accessible for all populations.
As a data-oriented thinker, I looked at a few maps to compare populations—populations who live in “food deserts”, areas with minimal to no access to foods essential for maintaining healthy diets, to populations who live in “healthcare deserts”, a term I’ve used for areas that have minimal to no access to healthcare. In healthcare deserts, an overwhelming amount of the population is not covered. Most jobs available in these areas do not provide health insurance, and individual health plans lack affordability, so these populations are forced to gamble on their health and forgo insurance. When looking at these two maps, I saw that efforts to achieve food justice and the implementation of universal healthcare are focused on very similar communities, and circling areas in need of access on both maps only highlighted this common goal.
Not only did our geographic communities of interest share similarities with one another, other state maps began to match up as well. Looking at California maps of access to education, higher income, and life expectancies from the American Human Development Project, the lack of disparity in district ranking shows how strongly these issues connect with one another, as the same areas of California I had noted earlier were labeled again and again as low access communities in these maps as well. Nonprofits like ourselves are connected to many nonprofits, organizations and health departments through our different types of support for these populations.
We cannot fight poverty without paying attention to each smaller issue within these areas of focus, including access to food, healthcare, education, and other resources of equal importance and impact. We are all united in working to fix different issues within our communities, and with each one we tackle, we help one another by collectedly combatting these larger obstacles in the progress of wellbeing in California. Because of these larger observations, I am spectating Obamacare closely because I know it will affect the communities that organizations like CFJC aim to support. With large chunks of California suffering from lack of nourishing food to establish wellbeing as well as the health insurance to maintain it, California needs the access to universally accessible healthcare that the ACA will provide come 2014.
“Food Access Research Atlas” provided by the United States Department of Agriculture: http://1.usa.gov/185DrN1
“Medically Underserved Areas and Populations” provided by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development: http://bit.ly/q7abKY