UT Students Protest Health Inequity

They urge Congress to spend more on global health

Tim Cunningham, an assistant professor of nursing at University of Virginia, speaks at a health equity rally at the Capitol (Photo by Leena Alali)

Young protesters chanted, "Health care is a human right!" beside the oak trees at the Capitol Saturday, gathered to support the Paul Farmer Memorial Reso­lution, presented to Congress Sept. 20 by Demo­cratic members from California and Illinois. The resolution, named for the celebrated public health specialist and "physician to the world" who died earlier this year in Rwanda, would allocate money for developing countries to spend on their health care systems. The demonstrators also turned to look at health care inequity at home.

"I have had patients refuse services because they don't have insurance, or because they're scared of the charge even with insurance," said Izzy Richards, an EMT and team coordinator for PIH Engage, the UT student organization that organized the event. (Partners in Health is the organization founded by Farmer.) "I've had patients be afraid of us coming into their homes because of the history of neglect and abuse by medical professionals. We have a lot to do to repair the relationship between us and the people we serve."

The resolution urges the U.S. to spend $125 billion per year on global health to finance health care in underserved nations. Misha Bhakta of PIH Engage said that spending more on global health to build better infrastructure will benefit the U.S. as well, by averting the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis or new COVID variants.

Speaker Chas Moore, executive director and founder of the Austin Justice Coalition, pointed to racism in Texas' health care system. "Here in the state of Texas, Black women are four or five times more likely to die from giving birth, because we still have people in the medical field that assume Black people are superheroes [with] types of crazy strength," he said at the rally. "I think we need to understand how so many of these other systems that are built and embedded with racism affect the health care system."

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