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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reduce Poverty and Improve Health

I was doing some online research this weekend, looking for cite-able sources about the connection between improvements in people’s socioeconomic status and their health outcomes when I stumbled across a piece of scholarship I simply had to share with you.

Many of us might not know a great deal about Thomas Frieden, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Frieden is responsible for providing the expertise and tools that people and communities need to protect their health.

Turns out, the guy is incredible – has turned the CDC around, shedding bureaucracy and replacing it with action and efficiency. He also happens to be the author of the brilliant piece I found in my searches yesterday: “A Framework for Public Health Action: The Health Impact Pyramid.”

So what was so brilliant about this article? Frieden clearly lays out the reality thataddressing socioeconomic factors has the greatest potential to improve health.”

Did you get that? The thing that we can do as a society to best improve health and health outcomes as a nation will be to reduce poverty which Frieden tells us will:

Improve immunity

Reduce crowding and exposure to communicable microbes

Improve nutrition, sanitation and housing options

Increase educational levels, and nutritional options

Reduce cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and diabetes

Reduce drug use and violence

and Lower vulnerability to extreme weather conditions.

Well, ok then. We’re done. We’ve solved it. All we need to do is to reduce poverty and improve baseline socioeconomic status. Let’s all get on that.

Actually, we’re already on it. You’re already on it. Each need we meet on the Benevolent site is bringing that person – and his or her family – one step closer to economic stability and sustainability. Each time you read and share one individual’s story of striving, you’re meeting and introducing others to the real people behind the numbers and maybe, just maybe, we’ll build momentum to change the conversation about policies and supports.

So, next time you hear a conversation about health care in our country, or about entitlement programs or funding for safety net supports, remember that those are actually the same conversation. We cannot continue to put low-income families in impossible situations and expect them to succeed with less and less of a foundation from which to build.

We cannot hope to see improved health, decreased obesity, drops in diabetes and heart disease rates, or drop-offs in community violence until we address the underlying reality. It’s about poverty. It’s about resources. It’s about how our civic constructs promote or inhibit people’s progress towards their goals and out of hardship and risk.

Thanks to each of you for being part of the solution. Remember to share the stories of striving and challenge you see on the Benevolent site out to your friends and family over Facebook, through email, etc. The more we introduce people to the real people impacted by low-income and hurdles to taking their steps towards stability, the more we change people’s understanding of the issues, needs, and constructs surrounding poverty in our country.

- megan kashner, founder & ceo