When people talk about poor health, the conversation may oscillate towards the subject of healthcare. You'll always find a different view on how to insure people and get them the care they need, but that doesn't address the root of the problem.
People must recognize diseases as crises. Instead of plugging holes in a sinking ship, they must look at what caused those gaps to be there in the first place. For many people struggling with health complications, the root cause is poverty.
The link between poverty and health outcomes becomes more evident with research. It affects people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, which is why the relationship must become a national conversation.
No Money, No Medical Care
The working class exemplifies the first connection between poverty and health. People who work multiple jobs to meet bills, take care of their kids and pursue their passions don't have extra money for expensive monthly premiums. Even if they have the option to get cheaper alternatives through their employer, many people opt out of health insurance plans.
They need that money for immediate needs, like food and bills. Even if it's not what they prefer, they pass on insurance and avoid going to the doctor because visits could mean bankruptcy. Their poverty worsens their poor health and may even cause it, depending on a person's quality of life.
Impoverished groups deal with more daily stress than those without financial concerns. Constant high levels of stress weaken the immune system because corticosteroid lowers the number of lymphocytes in the blood. It's a vicious cycle people want to break out of, but can't afford to.
Less Income Increases Risks Factors
Businesses that put profit over the wellness of their customers know they can make easy money off people in poverty. The tobacco industry is an excellent example of this. Tobacco brands have targeted low-income communities for decades by filling neighborhoods with tobacco retailers in small shops.
The tobacco products turn people into addicts, forcing them to divert any extra money they have towards habits that harm their health. They may have never formed those addictions if industries hadn't sought them out and put them at a higher risk by increased exposure to certain products.
Financial Inequality Continues to Grow
Some people may wonder why those in poverty don't get a better job. While that doesn't take into account the inability of low-income communities to afford college educations that secure higher wages, it also doesn't consider financial inequality.
The U.S. has a level of income inequality that has grown to an all-time high, even when compared to the Great Depression. It's a problem seen around the world as well.
South Africa ranks high on the inequality chart because the country still struggles with the economic effects of the apartheid system which left a majority of South Africans impoverished. These people who struggle to survive can't afford to move out of environments or low paying jobs that expose them to disease, like many other communities in other countries that don't make enough money.
New Ways to Approach Policy
A quick way to address the health crisis related to income inequality is to look to economic and health policies. Public policies affect large groups at once, so they're an excellent way to enact profound positive change.
Elected officials must remember who's at stake. Adults who can't afford healthcare for themselves also can't provide it for their children. Politicians actively seeking systemic improvements must fight for children's healthcare to approach the healthcare crisis from all angles.
When those politicians remember who's affected and which rungs of the country's economic ladder suffer along with impoverished people, policies will be more productive and focus less on helping lobbyists profit off of avoiding the issue.
There's No Time to Waste
Once the facts are evident, there's no way to ignore the effects of poverty on health. Economics and health care are a joint cause, not two topics to think about separately. While there's proof for the link that traps impoverished people into a cycle of disease, there's hope for the future in the people willing to recognize the problem and address it as a whole.