Health Predictors: Zip Code vs. Genetic Code
In episode 16 of The Heart of Healthcare Podcast, we talk to Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton who is advocating for a more equitable healthcare system.
Health disparities run so deep in this country, that your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code. Research has shown that the conditions we face as we live, learn, and work — or what researchers call the social determinants of health — have a lot to do with our health.
Health disparities are inequities in health opportunities that can be prevented yet are faced with systemic barriers. It’s lack of access to insurance, nutritious food, clean water, reliable public transportation, a good education, or culturally sensitive health care providers.
Achieving health equity would mean creating a system in which individuals are able to achieve their highest level of health. So how do we disentangle decades of regressive policies that lessen the health barriers populations are faced with today? We know disparities are present in healthcare, but how do we go from theory to practice?
In this episode, we we speak with Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton who is advocating for just that.
“My parents didn’t graduate from high school. I’ve learned along the way. I didn’t know what pre-med was. I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn’t even know what a doctor was. I didn’t have a pediatrician growing up. There was no access to healthcare. It was one of those situations where my mom, if she had to choose between feeding her family and paying a copay every single time, food and shelter would win. And that’s the same problem we’re seeing 20 years later.”
Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton is an anesthesiologist at the University of Virginia — Charlottesville. Before this, she was the first Black woman Anesthesiologist to be hired at the Medical University of South Carolina since its opening in 1824.
“How do you remain quiet when you’re part of this system? At the end of the day when I take off my white coat I am a Black woman, fully. My name literally means Black. It is who I am. And I wouldn’t want to change this for the world. But how do you get a system to also appreciate the beauty in that?”
But her work extends well beyond the hospital walls. She is a vocal supporter of health equity — advocating for underserved and marginalized populations. She is a regular on-air advocate and medical consultant for national media outlets like MSNBC and CNN. Dr. Hilton is also a children’s book author of the Ava Series, which demonstrates the power of positive thinking and the book “We’re Going to Be O.K,” a children’s book about the pandemic.
“We have dehumanized medical providers to a point where we say you just need to take it because you need to do what’s best for the patient. But in that moment you become the patient. And we know that every year 300 or 400 doctors commit suicide because of that lack of humanity and our sacrifices of life experiences.”
- The influence of politics, poverty, and racism on health outcomes
- How the business of healthcare sometimes takes away the humanity
- Her experience treating a patient with a white power tattoo on his chest
- Why African immigrants to the US have better health outcomes than Black Americans
- Why Black women are 3X more likely to die from COVID than white men
- How medical professionals can help create a more equitable healthcare system