The low-income population encounters significant obstacles to accessing affordable, high-quality healthcare and, compared to those with higher income, is more likely to be uninsured and to prioritize paying for food or housing over paying for healthcare services. Even when insured, low-income individuals have lower rates of healthcare utilization as they are more likely to forego diagnostic testing, treatments, procedures, or prescription drugs due to prohibitive costs resulting from high health plan deductibles. In addition to experiencing financial constraints while seeking healthcare, low-income individuals are more likely to be impacted by negative social determinants of health. For these reasons, making care more accessible, affordable, and higher quality is necessary for improving health outcomes among the low-income population.
Healthy People 2020 defines social determinants of health as the conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Conditions (e.g., social, economic, and physical) in these various environments and settings (e.g., school, church, workplace, and neighborhood) have been referred to as “place.” In addition to the more material attributes of “place,” the patterns of social engagement and sense of security and well-being are also affected by where people live. Resources that enhance quality of life can have a significant influence on population health outcomes. Examples of these resources include safe and affordable housing, access to education, public safety, availability of healthy foods, local emergency/health services, and environments free of life-threatening toxins.