Health chances are defined as the ability of a person in a society to gain access to adequate healthcare. There are many reasons for the inequalities in health chances due to gender and ethnicity; this is mainly due to the different ways in which people use and gain access to social institutions and their lifestyle choices. An ethnic group is one of a common cultural identity, separating them from other groups around them and gender is defined as socially defined behaviour regarded as appropriate for the members of each sex. There are many patterns in health chances that can be found from numbers and facts – many of these contribute to the health chances of each category.
Ethnicity is a major factor in health chances, mainly due to the fact that most ethnic minority groups have higher mortality rates than majority races such as Caucasians – especially in infant mortality rates. This shows how it can be difficult for different ethnicities to gain access to healthcare, or they may choose not to use healthcare provided due to differing cultural values and restrictions. An example of differing morbidity rates for different ethnicities is the way in which people from Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi peoples are more likely to die from tuberculosis or liver cancer than any other race. This again reveals how their chosen ‘normal’ lifestyle affects health in different ways; affecting their health chances.
Diet is a major factor for ethnicities in their health chances, affecting likelihood of cardiovascular diseases or diabetes amongst others. For instance there is a high diabetes level amongst Asian people; this is thought to be caused by a high carbohydrate diet and a more fat in cooking as ‘ghee’ is commonly used. Also the lack of vitamin D in the diet it thought to be a major cause of rickets disease; which is very high amongst Asian people with poorer diets. This demonstrates how health chances can be influenced heavily by the common diets of a certain ethnic group, they are also unlikely to deviate from this as it is seen as the ‘norm’ in their culture.
The ability of a person to communicate is vital in them having good health chances; if an individual cannot explain their ill health then it is difficult to understand how to treat them. Elderly Asian women speak poor English in general due to the fact that it is very difficult to learn a new language, thus discouraging them from doing so; this creates problems for the NHS in using preventative services such as cancer screening, and also medication prescription. Their health chances are thus reduced simply by the fact that they remain ignorant to the healthcare that can be provided to keep them in good health.
Materialist sociologists such as Dorling and Shaw suggested that poverty is more likely to be experienced by ethnic minorities; for example 40% of ethnic minorities live in poverty compared to only 20% of the white population. As these people cannot afford over-the-counter medicines and healthier foodstuffs; they are thus less likely to have good health chances. Alcock also found that poor damp housing often leads to poor health chances in ethnic minority children; along with poor qualifications and more time off school.
Gender affects health chances more through the genetic differences between men and women; and also the way they are socialised along with the likelihood each have of catching certain