First, a “thank you”to those responsible for the recent Global Health Equity Symposium at Carrolton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami. They gave everyone present the precious gift of inspiration. Part of the gift was no doubt due to the setting-- an iconic old school on Biscayne Bay where nature and buildings blend to make the other even more beautiful. And “credit where credit’s due:” the Symposium coincided with 3 days of perfect 70 degree weather and brilliant blue sky.
The event began with a documentary about the work of Partners in Health (PIH), Bending the Arc. If you’ve not heard of PIH or the co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, and you care about social justice and access to health care, you should read one of Farmer’s books or speeches or, better yet, see the movie. Famer has touched and saved countless lives, helped transform the health care systems of some the world’s poorest nations; co-founded one of the most profoundly positive and impactful non-profits in the history of nonprofits; spoken truth to power. Perhaps most inspiring…. he’s humble and collaborative.
A quick background on how the Symposium happened: Laurie Weiss Nuell, a Miami native whose family has long supported health care equity in Miami and around the world, suggested to Dr. Farmer that he collaborate with Patti Wiesen. Patti is a Carrolton teacher who shares their passion for social justice and imparts it to her students through her art classes, (scroll to bottom of homepage for a short video that tells symposium’s history. http://globalhealthequity.net.)
After the movie, in response to a question about Miami’s health disparities, Dr. Farmer said global health equity is not just about “far away problems;” that working on health justice in the states means focusing on legislation, and that this effort requires some understanding of the economics and financing of health care in America.
So, thank you Dr. Farmer for the perfect segue to a breakout session I led the next day on the moral and economic issues in Florida’s Medicaid expansion debate. Florida is one of 19 states that has still not extended health care coverage to low-income uninsured adults under the Affordable Care Act. As a result, over half a million Floridians have no path to affordable health care and Florida is leaving over $ 5 billion of federal funds per year on the table. We talked about how people (and our local economies) are suffering unnecessarily and how students, faculty and others can work with advocates, including the new Florida Health Justice Project, www.floridahealthjustice.org., on expanding Medicaid.
We talked about how Florida’s Medicaid expansion fight is similar to PIH’s struggle—both are about health care access for poor people who don’t have it. But compared to the monumental efforts of PIH in Haiti, South American and Africa-- where MOUNTAINS have been moved-- the struggle here is like moving a molehill. There are many of us in Florida to move that molehill; we don’t have to get on a plane, we can bend the arc at home.
By Miriam Harmatz, Co-Executive Director