Blog Wrap-up

My ten posts for this assignment are done and posted, but I just wanted to add some final words. I realize that a lot of terms throughout my posts have different connotations and definitions–low-income, poverty, etc.–but the problems are essentially the same, that of limited choices and resources. I hope I have been successful in spreading awareness about low-income family health issues. I know I have learned a lot in writing it. My biggest realization is that there are extremely complicated circumstances surrounding each low-income family. Not one is exactly alike, but there are so many barriers in place, so many trials to overcome, and I hope that as we become more aware of these problems, we can have charity towards our fellow travelers in life.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” –Mahatma Gandhi

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A Different Side of Diversity

Much of America’s richness comes from the diversity of her people. We have made great progress in ensuring equality and rights for all, but there is still substantial progress to be made. It is no secret that minority groups make less, have worse health, have shorter life expectancies, and tend to be under-represented overall.  Race is often a determining factor of socioeconomic status. African American children, for example, are 3 times more likely to live in poverty than Caucasian children, according to the American Psychological Association. Minorities are more likely to receive high-cost mortgages, and have higher rates of unemployment. Minorities have less education and their children have lower birth weight. They are more exposed to tobacco and alcohol advertisements and drug distribution. They ultimately have less privilege, power, and control. There are of course individual exceptions to these disparities, but the overall situation of these groups cannot be ignored.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities outlines goals and actions the Department will take to reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. With this plan, the Department commits to continuously assessing the impact of all policies and programs on racial and ethnic health disparities. It will promote integrated approaches, evidence-based programs and best practices to reduce these disparities.

Legislation can step in, but as individuals we can work to recognize existing negative attitudes towards ethnic and racial minorities and advocate for cultural and linguistic competence. We need to confront any problems in ourselves before we can expect our country to do the same, and continue to work towards an American diversity that is a celebration instead of a source of disadvantage for so many.

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Old and Poor

An important aspect of public health is advocating for groups who cannot advocate for themselves. These demographics include women, children, racial minorities, the poor, and the elderly. To be part of any one group is hard enough, but anyone we discuss on this blog will fall into two and perhaps even three of these demographics. What an incredible challenge to face when it comes to getting help, isn’t it?

To be old and poor.

According to the International Longevity Center, approximately 70 percent of older households have annual income below $35,000 and almost 30 percent have income between just $10,000 and $20,000. In 2000, all older people with annual income below $8,259, or couples with income below $10,409 were defined as poor, by the way. That is about $700 less than what people 65 and under have to make to be considered in poverty. That’s the challenge of the elderly–that they have to be poorer than the poor of the young to be classified as in need. There is reason to believe that this poverty line does not accurately reflect the added expenses that the elderly face in the form of health care and other costs, and does also not take geographical location into account. To be old and poor is much different in Chicago than it is in a small town.

How much advocacy needs to be done for these people? Lots, according to the National Senior Citizens Law Center. This organization does important work on pensions, quality nursing home care, Medicaid entitlement, adequate Medicare claims, sufficient Social Security services, Supplemental Security Income, and also work to ensure that beneficiaries of government programs can still enforce their right by having access to courts.

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Victims of Homelessness

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the police were called to the scene after an abuser stabbed his ex-girlfriend at her apartment. Following the incident, her private landlord served her with an eviction letter because of the police presence at the apartment complex.

A private landlord in Wichita, Kansas, denied a domestic violence survivor’s rental application, explaining “he did not want domestic violence victims in his apartments because abusers often found them and caused property damage.” Even though the survivor provided the landlord with documentation of her abuser’s incarceration and a court restraining order, the landlord denied her rental application.

In Washington, D.C., a woman and her three small children were experiencing domestic violence in private rental housing. Following several incidents of abuse by her husband against her, the woman sought and obtained a civil protection order against the abuser from the court, which ordered him to vacate the apartment and required him to stay away from her. In the meantime, however, the landlord issued the woman an eviction notice and brought an eviction action against her, alleging that she was “being noisy and boisterous by fighting at all hours which is offensive to the other occupants of the building.”

A woman living in Racine County, Wisconsin, was evicted and lost her Section 8 housing voucher when her child’s father, in violation of a domestic abuse injunction, broke down her apartment door. The police were called and the abuser was incarcerated. As a result of the incident, the apartment manager evicted the woman because of the property damage caused by her abuser. The local housing authority then terminated her Section 8 benefits.

Domestic violence (DV) is the leading cause of homelessness in the United States. 50% of all homeless people say that their homeless status is primarily caused by DV. One in every four women is homeless because of violent acts against her, according to a 2007 report from The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. The DV stories are excerpts from that survey. Violence is a problem for low-income and impoverished families, and women seem to be especially vulnerable victims.

Hold up. What is this ‘Section 8’ business from the last story, you ask?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, known as Section 8, is a Federal housing program which provides housing subsidies to low-income renters and homeowners. To qualify, a person has to be classified as ‘low-income,’ or have an income level that is 50% below the area median income. Rent is based on income, and a voucher will pay anything above 30% of the adjusted monthly income up to a certain limit based on area. Section 8 program requirements including a physical inspection to insure the building is decent, safe and sanitary, the housing authority executes a contract with the landlord to pay rent on your behalf.

Sounds like a really good deal, right? Until hopes of home security are shattered by DV. Victims can be evicted or denied housing because of the violent acts against them, such as a history of calling the police, having lived in an emergency shelter, and having obtained supposedly risky court protection orders. Landlords try to protect themselves, business, and their assets, but they end up causing a lot of hard to already bruised and broken people. Literally. It is illegal through the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 to dismiss a tenant because they are a victim of domestic violence. It still happens. These women need protection from all sides, and a stable place to live is a start.

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Neighborhood Safety and Child Health

In a 2006 national phone survey, neighborhood safety was shown to be a major barrier to physical activity for low-income households. This was seen to contribute to higher levels of obesity. Children who are unable to go outside due to unsafe neighborhood environments have fewer opportunities to be involved in sports or other activities with kids nearby. This is most common in inner city areas where crime and violence are a constant threat, and people of the same socioeconomic status live in the same neighborhoods. Drugs and alcohol are not strangers here.

Adding to the obesity problem is also the fact that these kids are less likely to be given nutritious meals at home, and are probably being fed cheaper, more processed, fatty and sodium-filled food that is within the parent’s limit budget. It’s a downward spiral for these kids as far as obesity is concerned.

There is hope for low-income children. According to another study on the health of low-income adolescents, more physical activity was associated with more hours spent in after-school programs. Many schools offer programs for children to stay after school to work on homework and get some exercise that they would not otherwise be able to get. After school programs also keep students out of trouble with substance abuse, violence, gangs, theft, and other harmful activities. Communities where safety is an issue should consider funding these school programs as a positive step towards the health and well-being of their citizens, especially that of low-income families.

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Building Blocks

Home visits from a family educator. Parent and family activities. Health screenings. Nutrition information. Parenting help. Employment and training assistance. Help accessing community resources. Child development information.

These resources are invaluable to a low income family.

What if they could get them for free?

There’s good news for families in Utah Valley!

Kids on the Move is an organization in Orem, Utah, committed to early child education interventions. They provide a variety of services, including a program for children with learning delays, a daycare, and a program for children in low-income homes.

Early Head Start is Kids on the Move’s child development program that serves low-income families in Utah County with children ages birth to 36 months, as well as pregnant mothers and their families. They support parents as they help their young children grow and develop and provide resources and support to families. Services are absolutely free for low income families.

Families participate together to promote child development, healthy family functioning, school readiness and family literacy. Experiences and activities are planned around parents’ goal for their children and families.

Positive, nurturing parent-child relationships are the focus of all these services. By serving as a source of relief to parents from the stresses of everyday life, Kids on the Move also gives kids a chance to start learning early and provide parents with educational tools they need to succeed.

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Prenatal Protection

Once a woman is pregnant, it is critical to start seeing a doctor or a midwife and eating well. For low-income women, this can be a major challenge. Those without medical insurance or who experience low food security can have a difficult time getting adequate prenatal care.

Help for these women and their unborn children is available from a variety of sources.

  • Pregnant women may qualify for Medicaid, the government’s assistance program for low income Americans. For those who don’t qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance program can assist in finding low-cost medical care.
  • Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food, healthcare referrals, and nutrition education to expectant low-income women and moms with children up to 5 years of age who are at risk of undernourishment.
  • Another challenge associated with low-income pregnant women is finding adequate child care for their other children. National Head Start Services and Child Care Aware are two resources available to help women locate free or low-cost childcare while they are dealing with the important part of pregnancy.
  • Text4baby is a free program that provides pregnant women and moms with timely information about their health, based on their due date or the baby’s date of birth. This is a great way to stay connected to low-income women who do not have the time and resources to have prenatal visits regularly.

There is no start in life worse than that of an underdeveloped or malnourished newborn. There are many resources to ensure these children can enter this life as healthy as possible!

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