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Being poor kills

Science Club


According to the most recent census data, 1 in 5 people in Shelbyville are living in poverty.  

If you’ve ever experienced life in poverty for any period of time, I’m sure you don’t need me to explain any difficulties that it brings, but one of the most significant consequences of being poor is a decreased quality and length of life.  

The wealthiest 10% of Americans live on average 12 years longer than the poorest 10%. And poor people also spend more of their lives suffering or recovering from disease than their wealthy counterparts.  

During the pandemic, people in poverty have been more likely to die from COVID-19 complications. Poor people are more likely to get heart disease and diabetes or to die from cancer. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  

Being poor means you are more likely to get many diseases and to die from them.  

But why is this?  

You can probably guess one of the biggest factors contributing to this— healthcare access. When you can’t afford to see a doctor, you can’t find out what’s wrong with you. When you can’t afford outrageously priced prescription drugs, you can’t treat your problem even if you know. This is definitely something we need to focus on fixing as a society if we want to provide the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to all Americans.  

But even when poor people have adequate access to medical services, they still suffer from illness more than the wealthy.  

Community medicine can help fix this.  

Community medicine examines how social and economic factors contribute to disease. And, surprise-surprise, poor communities are at a greater risk in just about every way. Healthcare investment should aim to give communities the tools to identify and fix their problems.  

Lifting people out of poverty, having better housing standards, cleaning up local food and water sources, providing high quality education—these are how we make sure rich and poor alike can live long and healthy lives.  

Yes, hospitals and drugs and doctors are important— people will still get sick— but making our communities, especially the most impoverished ones, safer places to live is something that gets less attention but is just as important.  

In the US, we focus more on treating disease than preventing it. If you have water dripping from your ceiling, you can put down pots and buckets to collect the water, but at some point, you have to fix the ceiling. The US spends a lot on buckets and relatively little on fixing the ceiling, and this is why we spend more on healthcare than any other country, yet have some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world.  

We can’t just treat disease, we also have to try to prevent it if we want to minimize healthcare costs and have a healthy population.  

So be they in Shelbyville, the US, or around the world, we should tackle problems at their source.  

To ensure all of us, rich and poor, can pursue our goals and contribute what we have to offer, we should invest in medicine, but also in our communities.  

Being poor shouldn’t be a death sentence.  


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