The future of health care

Baby boomer panel addresses health inequity



The community and panelists attended Baby Boomer Panel held at Ladysmith, Wis. in their auditorium.

Story by Angel Vang, Copy Editor

With the aging population of the baby boomers, attention is being drawn towards the future in health care and health care inequity and disparity on how changes can be made to accommodate them, especially in rural areas.

A group of first-semester senior College of Nursing and Health Science students was partnered with Indianhead Community Action Agency, Inc. They held a panel on April 1 in Ladysmith called “Ready or Not: Embracing the Wave of Baby Boomer” to address these issues. Panelists then shared their thoughts.

ICAA Chief Executive Officer Pamela Guthman helped organize this event. With it Guthman wanted to introduce the challenges that are facing the rural north western area in regards to preparing and providing services that our aging baby boomer population is currently in need given the population statistics seen in our lower western counties.

“Because rural areas have typically been lower in social economic, for some baby boomers they lack similar equitable access to education, workforce, housing, insurance to meet their needs (compared to the more fortunate baby boomers),” she said.

Comparing the USA to other countries, Guthman discovers that the health care system in the USA is based on illnesses that are already in effect while other countries’ health care are more focused on preventing future illnesses.

“We pay a lot of money for low quality health outcomes in proportion to what other countries provide,” she said. “We spend about 20% of our gross domestic products in the U.S in comparison to about eight to nine percent of other developing countries’ who have much better health outcomes, and they tend to support funding that is targeting more preventive measures (to improve the longevity and quality of life).”

With modern services, baby boomers will need specialized care to help them with personal care needs, such as using restrooms, providing meals for themselves or walking. That typically means a caregiver is needed to assist, Guthman said. However, other specialized care will depend on their optimal level of wellness.

One of the students, Tabatha Ballentine, said although this panel was to provide the community information on the health inequity baby boomers are facing and the future in health care, as a nursing student preparing herself for the workforce, it was a great experience for her to collaborate and partner with outside sources to voice issues through this project.

“We’ve only learned about public health nursing and it’s something that we have never had clinical immersion in before. So (this event) was a different side of nursing. You’re not caring for patients, but a community,” Ballentine said.

Organizing this event, Ballentine said they acquired collaboration, leadership, communication and organizational skills. However, they strongly hope their voices were heard by legislators who attended.

Wisconsin has one of the most rapidly changing population of baby boomers than other areas in the state, so Guthman hopes this event will spark the conversation of the health inequity and disparity baby boomers are facing.

“If we take maps to show the areas where we lack (health equity), we see compounded issues that speak volumes to an ignored population who are experiencing health care inequity,” Guthman said, “and until we address those issues, it will be very difficult to make changes in financial reimbursements and how we improve the population in Wisconsin. But this is also a national challenge.”