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Achieving Health Equity: Choosing Right Physician Can Help

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Research shows having more family physicians in a community leads to better health outcomes and lower health-care costs. (clarita/morguefile)
Research shows having more family physicians in a community leads to better health outcomes and lower health-care costs. (clarita/morguefile)
 By Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI, Contact
May 23, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – When it comes to being as healthy as you can possibly be, there are many uncontrollable factors, but doctors say one decision could help achieve greater health equity.

Dr. Kim Yu is chair of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians practicing in Frankenmuth, and she says health equity requires valuing all people equally and looking at the disparities in society that keep people from achieving optimal health. She says in these uncertain times, having someone on your side who knows your family, as well as your community's history, can be a big asset.

"From grandmother to parent to child to aunts and uncles to everybody, that they are able to understand all the different genetic issues that may be affecting one's health, but also one's community," she explains.

While those who fear losing their health insurance might be tempted to skip seeing the doctor, Yu says choosing to see a family physician, who is trained to treat people at all ages and stages of life, can give a patient a powerful advocate to help navigate the system in cost-effective ways.

She adds that because family physicians can treat many generations of the same family, and often work in marginalized communities, they have the benefit of being able to see the bigger picture of the many factors influencing a person's health.

"It's not just about disease or how long one lives, but it's also how much access one has to fresh vegetables or fruit - or food insecurity, poverty or homelessness," she says.

She points to the example of the Flint water crisis and physician Mona Hanna-Attisha, who knew her community well enough to put the pieces together and became one of the whistleblowers to shine a light on the health crisis caused by the city's lead-tainted water.

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