Structural Competency and Cardiovascular Health

By: Kristen Smith

A well known quote states, “… your zip code or socioeconomic status should never determine the quality of your education…” Sadly, the harsh reality is while the quote promotes fairness and health equity, there are still many improvements to be made and the gradual change will take time. On a global aspect, we have come a long way with improvements, but we have a long way to go. Structural Competency is classified as, “ the capacities of practitioners to respond to the ways in which broad social, political and economic mechanisms contribute to the vulnerability and ill health of individuals and communities.” In a recent article that focuses on The Need for a Structurally Competent Healthcare System, it highlights the issues involving social determinants of health, as it applies to the response of the global pandemic. Structural Competency applies to cardiovascular health and disease research and our summer media projects directly correlate with the structural competency of the healthcare system and the effects it has on pregnant women, their families and loved ones. 

The way structural competency will be effective is by bringing up healthcare workers, who all care about the well-being of all mankind, regardless of where they come from, and exposing them to structural competency. Along with healthcare workers, city officials, lawmakers, and individuals living in the communities, there should be hope to hold onto. All of these factors apply to cardiovascular disease and research because it is affecting so many people and the numbers continue to rise. Researchers are working extensively hard to help bridge the gaps, but without being fully aware of the structural competency that we are experiencing, the problem will continue to exist. With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of morbidity in America and the prevalence of cardiovascular disease being increasingly high around the globe, structural competency is the driving force to be the change. Social determinants of health have to be addressed, but in more recent times, actually paying close attention to these public health issues will be the underlying measures that will help solve these problems that have been going on for ages. 

The media project I am currently working on could potentially help with raising awareness and becoming more engaged in the community. These surveys we plan to execute could help pregnant women, their families and loved ones by lowering these rising numbers of gestational hypertension. If they are more aware of these health conditions, it is the hope that they will begin taking preventative measures. By lowering these numbers, hopefully there will be less likelihood of the diseases gestational hypertension can lead to and cause. Our media projects should definitely involve creating an easily accessible database, or resource for the public to be able to become educated on these health conditions. We can share the information we found to our local community, whether it be through a free news outlet, or tell a family member our findings. Along with an accessible database, it would be helpful if the entire program could generate an app, possibly in the form of a game, or educational videos, available in Google Play and the Apple Store, which could help everyone, and connect with science communication. Structural competencies is an amazing approach, but correcting these social determinants of health and health equity for all mankind will take time. These gradual shifts are beginning with raising the awareness of structural competency, which in return will eventually reveal a betterment in the healthcare system.

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