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Social Determinants of Health: Thoughts on Economic Stability

AUGUST 10, 2017 | Tiffany High
Poverty

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

-James Baldwin

 

Perhaps it’s time for Americans to take a step back. Evidently, many have forgotten what it means to be poor and what poverty really looks like in this country. Poverty is scalable. It doesn’t always present itself in extreme ways like homelessness, low paying jobs or SNAP benefits. Seemingly “stable” middle class families can find themselves struggling to make ends meet on a single salary following a layoff. If that family can no longer afford basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, health care) comfortably, are they still considered poor? Take a look at this article:

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    The New York Times: What Do We Think Poverty Looks Like?

    “Several years ago, during a harsh Detroit winter, I swallowed my pride and applied for food stamps…”

    read more

  • The writer acknowledges that she had previously held views that prevented her from considering herself as “poor”. It raises a legitimate question of whether or not voters (when faced with poverty-related issues) could hold similar “us vs. them” views, skewing their voting habits to negatively affect the poor. This exacerbates the problem as more laws go on the books that make it harder to live in (or to ever escape) poverty.
  • There is a general apathy toward the plight of the poor. Whether or not you consider yourself poor, many believe that people don’t really need a lot of assistance. They should be able to work hard and “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. If you think poor people are in their respective situations because they are lazy or too dependent on government assistance, you would be less likely to vote in favor of programs that could possibly assist them.
  • What are the subsequent societal costs? The average economic burden for a person diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 was $10,970 a year. Pretty expensive considering there are 23.1 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes. If that individual is living in poverty and can barely afford their basic needs, who will shoulder that medical burden? We all do. If said diabetic is unable to afford healthy foods to help manage their disease through diet, what then? Poor or not, this is everyone’s problem.

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