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Poor people get sick more often than non-poor people, and when people are sick, they cannot learn, they cannot work hard, and they cannot move up the opportunity ladder. This is a burden not only on the poor themselves, but on the society as a whole. Poverty is a trap, which is very hard to escape from. Poverty breeds disease, and disease perpetuates poverty. Let's look at the ways that this happens.

Obesity is a huge health problem in the US, and it's getting worse every year. What role does poverty play in that?

"In 2010, 15.1% of Americans lived in poverty based upon family income census data. With the economic downturn, the number of people in the U.S. living in poverty rose to 46 million people—the greatest number in more than 50 years.
Are poverty and obesity associated? Poverty rates and obesity were reviewed across 3,139 counties in the U.S. In contrast to international trends, people in America who live in the most poverty-dense counties are those most prone to obesity. Counties with poverty rates of >35% have obesity rates 145% greater than wealthy counties. Halting U.S. diabesity epidemic and curtailing its health cost may necessitate addressing poverty."
Race and socioeconomic status contribute to obesity
"Results. In the younger group, both Black and Latino children had a greater likelihood of being overweight compared with White children. Among the adolescent group, Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders were more likely to be overweight. Among adolescents, lacking health insurance and having public insurance were both positively associated with the prevalence of overweight. A relationship between insurance status and overweight was not observed for younger children. Conclusions. There are substantial racial differences in the prevalence of overweight for children and adolescents. Health insurance status is associated with the prevalence of overweight among adolescents."
poverty increases diabetes mortality rate
" Findings from this nationally representative cohort demonstrate a socioeconomic gradient in diabetes-related mortality, with both education and income being important determinants of the risk of death."
poverty increases rates of alchoholism
" Cumulative and point-in-time measures of neighborhood poverty are important predictors of alcohol consumption. Estimators that more closely approximate a causal effect of neighborhood poverty on alcohol provided a stronger estimate than estimators from traditional regression models."
poverty increases cardiovascular disease. the way to fix it is through social policy, not through medicine alone.
The studies show that equitable access to health care is not evident and those in less affluent neighborhoods have greater disease incidence and increased mortality and morbidity rates, particularly for angina, myocardial infarction, and heart failure. The approach to reducing disease rates needs to be conducted from an individual level to the societal level and needs to prevent and treat heart disease (particularly in deprived neighborhoods). Nurses and health professionals must drive health policy so that progress can be achieved in reducing the disease rates.
Poverty and mental illness go hand in hand
"The biggest enemy of health in the developing world is poverty"
Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Poverty impedes mental function. How can poor people compete and move up?
The poor often behave in less capable ways, which can further perpetuate poverty. We hypothesize that poverty directly impedes cognitive function and present two studies that test this hypothesis. ... it appears that poverty itself reduces cognitive capacity. We suggest that this is because poverty-related concerns consume mental resources, leaving less for other tasks.
Poverty hinders proper emotional development. No wonder poor people continue to make poor choices.
Childhood poverty has been linked to emotion dysregulation, which is further associated with negative physical and psychological health in adulthood.
Poverty increases changes for infectious diseases
"Abstract: In the United States, there is a largely hidden burden of diseases caused by a group of chronic and debilitating parasitic, bacterial, and congenital infections known as the neglected infections of poverty. Like their neglected tropical disease counterparts in developing countries, the neglected infections of poverty in the US disproportionately affect impoverished and under-represented minority populations. The major neglected infections include the helminth infections, toxocariasis, strongyloidiasis, ascariasis, and cysticercosis; the intestinal protozoan infection trichomoniasis; some zoonotic bacterial infections, including leptospirosis; the vector-borne infections Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, trench fever, and dengue fever; and the congenital infections cytomegalovirus (CMV), toxoplasmosis, and syphilis."
The poor are at increased risk of acquiring HIV
New CDC Analysis Reveals Strong Link Between Poverty and HIV Infection
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released a first-of-its-kind analysis showing that 2.1 percent of heterosexuals living in high-poverty urban areas in the United States are infected with HIV. The analysis also shows that poverty is the single most important demographic factor associated with HIV infection among inner-city heterosexuals. "
Poverty and disease set up a trap which is hard to get out of
Poverty trap formed by the ecology of infectious diseases
"The intellectual basis for the disease-driven poverty trap stems from two substantial bodies of empirical fact. First, extreme poverty is indeed suffered disproportionately in areas where infectious diseases thrive. That poverty leads to an increased risk of disease is common sense and is well established in the epidemiology literature (World Health Organization 1998, 2001; Farmer 2001; Jong-Wook 2003). Second, there is a significant empirical literature on the effects of health on poverty (Strauss & Thomas 1998; Bloom & Canning 2000; World Health Organization 2001; Gallup & Sachs 2001; Sachs & Malaney 2002). Economic activity requires human resources—specifically, human capital—and therefore relies on basic biological processes for physical and cognitive development, which are compromised by infection."
And again, growing up under poverty and stress has lifelong health ramifications, which diminish poor people's chances for moving up in socioeconomic status.
"The implications of this framework for the practice of medicine, in general, and pediatrics, specifically, are potentially transformational. They suggest that many adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin early in life and that persistent health disparities associated with poverty, discrimination, or maltreatment could be reduced by the alleviation of toxic stress in childhood."
How bad is poverty in the US?
"In November 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty in the United States, including almost 20% of American children,[7] up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. In 2008, 13.2% (39.8 million) Americans lived in poverty.[8]

In 2011 extreme poverty in the United States, meaning households living on less than $2 per day before government benefits, was double 1996 levels at 1.5 million households, including 2.8 million children.[10] "

So a huge (16%) proportion of our community is suffering from poverty, which puts them under increased risk for many systemic and infectious diseases, including HIV. This increased risk of disease traps them into a multi-generational vicious cycle of poverty feeding disease, and disease feeding poverty. Thus, people living in poverty are not able to avoid disease, nor escape from poverty. This completely discredits the assertion that poor people are somehow lazy, and thus deserve to be in the situation they are in, and the rest of society should do nothing to help them. In fact there is such a concerted war on the poor being waged in this country, that they will need all the help they can get.
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