My name is Noah and I am a sophomore at Vanderbilt University.
Entering high school at a towering 4’9” and an imposing 93 pounds, I was the uncontested champion for the smallest kid in school. Doctors told me to be patient, that my growth spurt would come soon, but as the years went by with minimal growth, I grew increasingly frustrated. I began seeing endocrinologists and gastroenterologists, desperately searching for the cause of my short stature.
Finally, it became obvious that this was more serious than a matter of unfortunate genetics. An endoscopic biopsy revealed that my villi, which are meant to absorb nutrients, were not healthy and finger-like, but rather flat and severely destroyed—I had celiac disease. I felt lost. In addition to the normal feelings of anxiety around adjusting to high school life, I also had to adjust to a whole new gluten-free diet.
During my adjustment to this new diet, I learned of the immense disparity that exists in healthcare. While interning over the summer at the New York University Men’s Health Center, I realized how fortunate I was to be properly educated about and able to afford to respond appropriately to a strictly gluten-free diet. I was shocked to learn firsthand how vastly different my experience with celiac disease was with most individuals due to the impact of income on health literacy.
Celiac disease is treatable with a strict gluten-free diet, however, many less fortunate individuals are unable to afford the more costly gluten-free diet or are less educated on the importance of the dietary restrictions. Gluten-free foods are on average, about three times more expensive than regular foods. This creates a disparity between people who can afford the high cost of gluten-free products and those who are unable or unwilling to pay higher costs for certified gluten-free products.
I’m looking forward to further researching and analyzing this disparity through Beyond Celiac.