Canadian-born television and film actor, Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at the age of thirty. In his memoir, Lucky Man, Fox reveals how he has been spiritedly struggling with the disease, by also trying to help other patients suffering from the illness with no cure. As a matter of fact, the man has been trying very hard to convince the government as well as medical researchers to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Fox has been an advocate for stem cells research to boot, and believes that a cure to Parkinson’s Disease could be found within ten years’ time, provided that we now begin to put our finances to good use, that is, to find a cure for the disease through research.
Fox continued his actingcareerfor nine years after he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. What is more, the man continues to be a public figure with his advocacy for medical research to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Countless people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease choose “ the closet” over public appearance for the fear that they might lose their balance before the public eye. This is not the case with Fox, as mentioned before. On the contrary, Fox has been able to bravely fight his disease with all the public support he has already gathered. Moreover, the man has themoneyto push for medical research in the area. He also has the funds to manage hishealthcare better than do those sufferers who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Fox explains it thus:
I’d been given a lot to think about, not least the fact that I wasn’t the only one who had done my time in the closet. And the more I thought about it, the more it struck me just how plush, well-appointed, and secure my own closet had been. My career, my position in the world, and my financial situation gave me advantages in confronting the disease that most of my fellow P. D. ers could only dream about. And now, having publicly identified myself as a person living with Parkinson’s disease, there was little to keep me from playing an active role.
Indeed, I was ideally positioned to step into the void left by all those patients who had so much more to lose by going public. I had a lot to be grateful for, and now found myself with a unique opportunity to give something back (Out of the Closet; Into the Classroom).
There were various entities interested in exploiting Fox’s “ position in the world” withrespectto his disease. While people that do not enjoy the privileges that Fox enjoyed in his “ financial situation” while suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, remained closeted, Fox was approached by a variety of people that wanted to use his interest in medical research to actually find a cure for the dreadful disease. After all, Fox was also contributing toward helping people with the disease with his own finances. Thus, he mentions continued public support in his life with Parkinson’s Disease:
By the end of 1998, my desk was covered with correspondence bearing the letterhead of various Parkinson’s organizations across the country. All of them wanted my help in one way or another. The names of some of these groups implied a national reach, but on closer inspection they turned out to be local organizations affiliated with universities or hospitals or even individual researchers. Some were not set up to address research at all; instead, they were dedicating their time and resources to more basic patient concerns, caregiver support groups, quality-of-life issues, and other worthwhile considerations (Out of the Closet; Into the Classroom).
Fox is, indeed, a lucky man, who has been dealing with Parkinson’s Disease much better than do those who have not the kind of “ financial status” and “ position in the world” as his. In point of fact, it has been well documented that people from around the world who are wealthier and better educated do experience better health than those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds who have both less wealth and lesseducation. Smoking, poor nutrition, as well as physical inactivity are more prevalent in groups that are low in socioeconomic status.
Additionally, low socioeconomic groups have little or no access to preventive health care, for example, regular health checkups and screening programs. These medical services are easily accessed by people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds alone. What is more, financial barriers to health care are more likely to perpetuate the existing disparities in health among different socioeconomic groups (Veugelers and Yip).
People from low socioeconomic backgrounds are unable to afford pricey heath services that may save their lives. Neither can they afford expensive health insurance that would cover the kinds of health services that Fox may be using at present to fight the disease he is suffering from. As compared to Fox’s relatively successful struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, the low socioeconomic groups have to bear a “ greater burden of disease.” Correspondingly, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds have a “ greater need for health services” (Veugelers and Yip).
One research study revealed that specialist medical services are underused in the case of lower socioeconomic groups, and this widens the socioeconomic gap in health care (Veugelers and Yip). According to another study, lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to use the Medicare managed care home health as compared to higher socioeconomic groups.
Not only do people from lower socioeconomic groups need greater care, but they also rely on Medicare because they are unable to afford alternative options. In fact, evidence suggests that 15. 5 percent of Medicare plan enrollees living below thepovertyline use home health during a year, as compared to only 11. 2 percent of people who live above the poverty line. Moreover, those who belong to the lowest socioeconomic groups have almost twice the odds of persons from the highest socioeconomic groups to use the Medicare plan. People who are relatively higher in socioeconomic status than those in the lowest socioeconomic group, have approximately 1. 5 times the odds of other people having a home health visit (Freedom et al.)
According to Freedman et al., people from high socioeconomic backgrounds might believe that the Medicare managed care home health is an inferior good. In other words, people from higher socioeconomic groups are more likely to use alternative options like assisted living and the hiring of private assistance outside the benefits of Medicare (Freedman et al.).
Such options are believed to give access to better home health care to the aged. All the same, these options are only available to those who can afford them. In the condition that he is, Fox may be assumed to be using private assistance in the home. Although he is not aged, the man is expected to have hired someone qualified by now for his home health care. Regardless of the truth of this assumption, the fact remains that Fox is dealing with his illness with better health which may in part be attributable to his positive mind set. Apparently, he is not bearing as great a burden of the disease as do the people from lower socioeconomic groups. Fox reveals his positive mind set through the illness, in a dream he had, speaking of his farm and fresh growth:
It’s hard to process what I’m seeing. It can’t be possible, but inside this tight, dark, airless space, a tree has been growing. Growing isn’t even the word for it, really, it’s absolutely thriving. In response to the tight quarters it’s taken on the appearance of a bonsai tree. The trunk and branches are thick, and now, with the door flung open, the tree continues to grow right before my eyes, as if in time-lapse, new branches reaching out into the airy light of the kitchen and bursting into leaf (Los Angeles, March 1995).
While Foxdreamsof growth and thriving, research reveals that even kids from low socioeconomic groups are doing poorly in terms of health. As a matter of fact, low socioeconomic status is also connected with worse outcomes on health status measures such as mortality, acute and chronic conditions, in addition to self-rated measures of health.
Contrary to Fox’s positive mind set in his struggle to beat Parkinson’s disease, is the negative mind set of adolescents from low socioeconomic backgrounds who are more likely to attemptsuicide, and engage in heavy drinking. These youngsters are also known to be more depressed and obese. Furthermore, poor children and adolescents are given less attention at times when they are suffering from injuries that require medical attention. They additionally face retardation in growth (Newacheck et al.).
Children from poor households have little physician contact, do not have access to a regular source of primary care as well as sick care, and are less likely to have continuity between the sources of regular and sick care. As compared to the poor, children from high socioeconomic backgrounds obtain required health care, have a regular source of health care, and are known to receive any care from thedoctorthat is deemed necessary. Such children are also more likely to be seen in the doctor’s office (Newacheck et al.).
It is obvious that the socioeconomic effects on health care reach all age groups at the same time. The young and the old are similarly affected by their financial status with respect to health care. Unfortunately, everybody does not possess the “ financial status” and “ position in the world” that Fox possesses. Nevertheless, the man is working to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots in terms of health care. Funding medical research on Parkinson’s Disease, Fox’s behavior is aligned with his positive mind set that envisions growth and thriving.
We may expect such growth and thriving to be experienced between all corners of society only when the difference between the haves and the have-nots is eradicated. Although this difference has always been, and may always be, it is possible to provide better health care to low socioeconomic groups. According to Veugelers and Yip, universal health coverage, such as Medicare, may already be bridging the gap. Even so, people such as Fox continue to have access to better health care than those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Fox, Michael J. Lucky Man. New York, Hyperion, 2002.
- Freedman, Vicki A., Jeannette Rogowski, Steven L. Wickstrom, John Adams, Jonas Marainen, and Jose J. Escarce. “ Socioeconomic disparities in the use of home health services in a Medicare managed care population.” Health Services Research, October 2004.
- Newacheck, Paul W., Yun Yi Hung, M. Jane Park, Claire D. Brindis, and Charles E. Irwin Jr. “ Disparities in adolescent health and health care: does socioeconomic status matter?” Health Services Research, October 2003.
- Veugelers, P. J., and A. M. Yip. “ Socioeconomic disparities in health care use: does universal coverage reduce inequalities in health?” Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, June 2003.