My dryer broke last September, along with my sump pump and my dehumidifier. The week before I had just replaced my aging 2000 Ford Focus. This wasn’t my preferred way of starting graduate school. A flooded basement and broken laundry equipment with little funds to replace either, but that was the reality life handed me.
I packed up a piled of clothing one Sunday around noon in newer 2004 Saturn Vue, and drove to the laundromat in town. I took my Social Justice textbook with me to do some reading for my class as I faced hours of boredom. Little did I know I was about to be handed an education that no textbook in my hands could have prepared me for.
I live in Sparta, Michigan, a rural town of about 5,000 people surrounded by square mile after square mile of orchards. When you move here, you are oblivious to a hidden population.
As I sat down with highlighter in hand, a white bus arrived and emptied the passengers it contained along with every article of clothing each person had. It was a bus like you see in the image above. The passengers were migrant workers. In a matter of seconds, the amount of English that was spoken in the hot, humid laundromat that lacked air conditioning became limited to me and the attendant.
Part of my drive to start a non-profit pharmacy was born from this experience. I realized that this hidden population, not likely even counted in our county’s population had major health issues, lacked health insurance, and the documented income to handle any chronic health conditions. As I sat there attempting to read about the WHO’s social determinants of health, I realized the document I was trying to read lacked execution in the US based on the population that buzzed about in front of the chair near the door I sat at.
Access to healthcare in the US is a privilege, not a right. Your access is an insurance card. It acts like a blank check handed to your healthcare provider to do as they please with your health care dollar. If you lack insurance, to access quality care means your last name had better be on several buildings in the nearest city indicating you come from wealth and status. The truth is that 4 out of 10 people cannot afford basic healthcare in my own hometown, a number from our latest community health needs assessment hides quite well and I believe is grossly underestimated. Without this access to quality care, we do not have a stable community and a large pile of unnecessary hospitalizations.