‘Self-inflicted’ Injustice of Poverty is Killing Thousands, Perpetuating Health Inequity

By Dennis Archambault

Each time a professional athlete settles a multimillion-dollar contract, or a billionaire’s excess makes news, it’s hard not to think about the growing gap between the rich and the poor and its impact on the health of Americans. A recent headline in a Newsweek magazine article is telling: “Poverty is killing nearly 200,000 Americans A Year.” While that number is striking, there are thousands of others who are suffering from chronic diseases and injuries that are related to poverty.

Although often not categorized as such, stories about the social determinants of health and health disparities are becoming more common: Food insecurity. Exposure to poor air quality in industrial corridors. Inadequate housing. Unsafe communities. Poor educational attainment. Poor public transportation. And certainly not the least – lack of primary care medical homes.

The correlation between the effect of living in poverty is not often made, but those working in the community health sector know it’s there. Newsweek writer Giulia Carbonaro makes it clear, “The land of the free is suffering from a ‘self-inflected’ injustice when it comes to poverty…as the rich are getting richer while thousands living without sufficient means die every year in the United States.” Citing recent research by the University of California published this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the deaths of 183,000 Americans in 2019, aged 15 and above, was attributed to poverty.

Carbonaro’s article centers on the policy dilemma that America has chosen not to make the necessary investments in the social infrastructure to address poverty, whether it’s government intervention favored by liberals, or opportunity incentives promoted by conservatives. At least in that debate the problem and impact of poverty is acknowledged, as well as the will to do something about it.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.