Health and Society
We often hear “a right, not a privilege” in the debate over universal health care. Whether through the media, from politicians, the classroom, or our families, the adage is a fundamental belief which many people hold close. But like most sayings, the sincerity can fluctuate from person to person. Unfortunately, for many individuals, access to health care where needs are fully met is a privilege. Noncommunicable diseases like mental illness have a global history of going untreated, facing discrimination, and enduring abuse.
Today it is estimated that one billion people have a disability of some sort (Disability Inclusion, 2020). While there is certainly a stigma about people with disabilities, their capabilities, and the impact they can have on society, growing efforts in research and activism are helping to change world perceptions of disabilities. In Latin America, a region with rich and diverse cultures, there are many varying opinions and perspectives on people with disabilities (Hiring people with disabilities is not charity; it’s good for business, 2013). According to the World Bank, “between 80 and 90 percent of people with disabilities [in Latin America] are unemployed” and “only between 20 and 30 percent of children with disabilities have access to education” (Rueda, 2018). Although these numbers are alarming, many countries are taking huge steps forward in terms of resource availability, employment, and inclusive education for people with disabilities. Chile, a country known for its dynamic political and social history, is one Latin American country in particular whose efforts and plans for disability resources are worth noting.
More than 11 million people worldwide are suffering from COVID-19 (Worldometer, July 4, 2020). The global spread is halting economies with a stronger impact in Latin American countries that were already struggling with limited health services, a broad informal market, and high unemployment rates. In these countries, households suffer persistent worries about their health, economic uncertainty, and rigid social isolation, some of the stressors that can lead to mental health diseases.