Homelessness and Health Care

Quote

Amazon.com

Although the tipping point is often the loss of a job, sickness or injury often precede it. Sickness and injuries make holding a job difficult, which leads to income declining and homelessness for those without a safety net. Due to the mostly employer-based health insurance coverage system in the U.S., no job means no health insurance. The combination of unemployment and poor health can then lead to financial ruin. Nerdwallet estimated that 57.1 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills, making it the leading cause of the financial calamity that often precedes homelessness.

We can learn from how one doctor addressed hunger, another so-called health-related social issue or “social determinant of health.” Decades ago, Jack Geiger founded the first federally funded community-health center in the U.S. There, he began giving impoverished patients prescriptions for food using its pharmacy funds. Nervous about this practice, federal officials tried to stop him, but Geiger responded, “The last time we looked in the book, the specific therapy for malnutrition was food.”

The specific therapy for homelessness and its associated health issues is housing.

How Health and Homelessness are Connected—Medically: This doctor examines the web of medical conditions that lead to and compound homelessness, and vice versa, The Atlantic, 01/25/2016, written by Seiji Hayashi

Admiration List: Jennifer Brea

Jennifer Brea has been suffering from an un-treatable and not-yet-properly-identified neurological disease. She has been given diagnosis (e.g.: chronic fatigue syndrome) that basically mean nothing and was told it was ‘all in her head.’ This woman has been through the proverbial fire.

Yet, despite extremely difficult physical and social barriers, she has persevered, created a film about her experiences and pursued a life of activism, acting as a voice for all people suffering from invisible and un-diagnosed illnesses.

From her TED talk, you can see her strength, attitude and remarkable good will, as she expresses her hope that one day the medical community will learn how to face a disease like her own and speak the honest truth: I don’t know what is wrong with you.

I have to agree with her statement that this ability to be able to admit to not having an answer is a key step in eventually finding an answer.

People Don’t Die of AIDs or Poverty

During a discussion on Quora a comment was made in response to my answer to the question Does feminism exist on the street? Does it exist for women who are homeless or living in poverty? That response was: “Poverty doesn’t kill people.”

The comment has been deleted. At the time it was posted I chose to simply allow it to stand without response.

However, it stuck in my head for several days, rattling around and making connection with another statement I have heard many times over the years: “AIDs doesn’t kill,  complications from contracting the AIDs virus kills.”

Take a Stand Against AIDS HIV T Shirts

giftsforawareness on Zazzle.com

AIDs vs Opportunistic Infections

From a scientific or medical perspective HIV (the AIDs virus), in and of itself, does not kill. AIDs attacks the immune system, which makes the patient vulnerable to other diseases (opportunistic infections) and those diseases are what ultimately kill the patient. For additional scientific data see:

homeless is no place for a child tee shirt

frednphil on zazzle

Poverty vs Social Determinants

It is also true that poverty, in and of itself, does not kill. Humans do not need cash to live, they need the things cash can buy. In that respect, poverty is just like the AIDs virus – potentially lethal problems are introduced as a direct result of being poor (Social Determinants or Social Factors) but the cause of death is never identified as ‘poverty.’ For example:

  • A homeless person without winter shelter dies of exposure or hypothermia.
  • A lifetime of poor nutrition or malnutrition, causes medical problems that can become lethal.
  • A child who does not survive the first two years of life has succumbed to infant mortality.
  • A teenager who is shot on the way to school is a murder victim who dies from a gunshot wound.
  • A poor person ensnared by human trafficking is a victim of criminal activity.
  • Living in close proximity to other people, under highly unsanitary conditions, causes a poor person to contract a lethal respiratory disease – the cause of death is tuberculosis.

For more information on the Social Determinants that contribute to the death of poor people, see the following (sadly incomplete) list of references and links:

Cascading Effect

‘Poverty does not kill’ is a legitimate statement but a failed argument. Neither poverty nor AIDs are directly and immediately lethal, but there is a clearly identified connection:

  • If the AIDs virus could be destroyed or removed, the immune system would return to normal and a reasonably healthy life could be resumed.
  • If poverty were eliminated, the resources necessary to establishing and leading a safe and healthy life could be achieved.

Please Respond

I welcome all comments on this topic. In particular, I would like to invite people to post articles illustrating all of the Social Determinants that result in the deaths of people trying to survive poverty.

Midwives and Medical Care

Quote

Amazon.com

My mother, who is a walking history of our community, tells me that when each of her children was born the midwife accepted as payment such home-grown or homemade items as a pig, a quilt, jars of canned fruits and vegetables. But there was never any question that the midwife would come when she was needed, whatever the eventual payment for her services. I consider this each time I hear of a hospital that refuses to admit a woman in labor unless she can hand over a substantial sum of money, cash.”

-In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker