Defining Structural Violence
Structural violence presents itself in a number of ways within the health sector. The legacy of the flow of resources from the global south to the global north can contribute to poor health systems as seen in Haiti, limit the choices available to individuals by restricting access to information as in Brooklyn, create the uneven distribution of global power that does not easily lend themselves to fighting disease as in Pakistan, and facilitate news systems that underreport on serious issues therefore limiting awareness, funding, and interventions as in Native American populations in the United States.
Global health inequalities result from a system of oppression, violence, and injustice. Through socially and historically embedded structures, individuals become vulnerable and susceptible to preventable diseases and illnesses. There is no one solution to fighting structural violence, although its effects are frequent and undeniable.
The following questions are meant to spark dialogue and critical thinking:
- Define structural violence in your own words. Then, imagine you are talking to another student at your school and make the concept personally relevant to them.
- Explain how structural violence has contributed to the continued transmission of polio in Pakistan, issues surrounding reproductive rights among Puerto Rican women in Brooklyn, the cholera outbreak in Haiti, and high rates of diabetes among Native American populations.
- List as many -isms as you can (see above image for working definition). Are any relevant to the four case studies presented here? Defend your answers.
- Who has the responsibility to address each health inequality and how?