As mentioned in my introduction, a 12-minute bus ride was what first introduced me to the world of community health. However, when I reflected further I realized that I had been exposed to preventative medicine at a much younger age. Having lived in India for 11 years and then immigrating to Canada I recognized the value of a strong public health system. I was also surprised to learn that most funds in healthcare are allocated to curing an individual rather than preventing the illness in the first place. I valued this concept as my maternal grandfather was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer when I was 6 years old and passed away shortly after. I realized the value of screening programs as if his cancer would have been detected earlier he might have still been alive today.
I was also exposed to the impact of health inequities listening to stories of my paternal grandfather’s practice. He was a physician who practiced in a low-socioeconomic setting where he interacted with many patients who were unable to afford medications. Hence, he prescribed simple lifestyle changes, that would help alleviate chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. I was intrigued to learn about the significant impact one’s education level, income and location of residence has on their health. I originally thought this was unique to India due to poor infrastructure, but through the Code Red Series, I was introduced to the health inequities that were prevalent in a developed country like Canada.
I learned about the Code Red Series in a geography class when I was a freshman. The premise behind the report was to investigate the glaring disparities that existed in different parts of Hamilton. It was found that the neighbourhoods with the highest rates of emergency room visits, lack of family physicians, respiratory-related and psychiatric problems also had the lowest median incomes and greatest number of people living below the poverty line and greatest number of dropout rates from school. This is when it was clear to me that health is affected as much by the social system as it is by biochemical factors. In order to learn more about this aspect of healthcare, I decided to apply for the global health specialization which would provide me with the skills to view health through a socioeconomic lens.