October 16, 2008, 12:45 am

When the Poverty is in Your Backyard

Well, I’m just a half-hour late to the show.

As everyone knows by now, yesterday was Blog Action Day, meaning over 12, 000 bloggers all blogged about one topic: poverty.

I was going to write yesterday, but maybe it’s better that I didn’t.

I have a little bit better perspective on poverty than I had yesterday.

**********

I’m working on a paper for my Community Nursing class; I am in the process of conducting a “Community Assessment”.

Part of the assignment entails doing a “windshield survey” of the community. Drive through. Get a feel for it. Find out what you can from just observing.

Now I knew that the area I had chosen was an older, run down area of my city. Lots of ethnic groups represented, most without health insurance. High crime area. Lots of young families with lots of kids. Many, many teenage girls raising their babies without help.

I knew that because I worked in the small emergency department right across a busy thoroughfare from this neighborhood.

But I never really knew the neighborhood.

**********

Before I left I finished reading a study on health inequities in my county of residence and then a report on the health of my specific city.

Seems the area I was going to survey had up to 40% of residents living at the poverty level.

The poverty level.

Forty percent!

Five miles away from my house.

**********

Poverty means you have to work a minimum wage job at least 86 hours a week to afford the rent in my city

Poverty means you have to live in non-healthy areas, near industry and freeways and dumps and bus depots and in high crime areas full of drugs and meth labs because you can’t afford to live in the “nice” parts of town.

Poverty means that your children are stuck in a school rated 21/100 and it’s doubtful they will graduate from high school.

Poverty means that the odds of your children growing up to live in poverty are great.

Poverty beats you down, keeps you down so that you don’t see – or can’t take advantage of – the opportunities that may be able to give you a hand up, a way out.

A better way of life.

**********

Essentially, poverty is THE health problem. Broken down living quarters. Poor nutrition. High stress. Depression. Substance abuse. Joblessness.

Universal health care sounds great, but if it doesn’t address health disparities at the financial, social and community level, then we are not giving those at the poverty level the same level playing field, the same foundation for a healthy life that those of us who are not impoverished enjoy.

Universal health care begins with healthy environments, strong community support, open space, freedom from toxins, good nutrition for children, good education opportunities, lower crime and the self-esteem that comes with believing that you deserve all these things.

I don’t ask for much, do I?

**********

I read that “the choices we have are the choices we make”.

Poverty narrows the number of choices you have; it makes you doubt there is anything better.

Or that you deserve anything better.

***

I used to feel all someone had to do was pull-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps and get their butts working hard and they could make it. And some of them can. Some of them have the strength to see beyond the walls of poverty and take the steps, make the sacrifices to get ahead.

Despite the odds.

But poverty perpetuates itself and affects multiple generations of families.

Is it any wonder that government assistance programs are needed? I know I’ll be looking at those a bit differently. Don’t tell my kids, they’ll think I’ve gone liberal on them….

Poverty is not just located in famine-devastated areas of far off continents.

Sometimes it’s right in your backyard.

Or in your emergency department…

6 Comments

  • Trusted.MD Network
    Trusted.MD Network

    October 16, 2008 at 1:42 am

    When the Poverty is in Your Backyard…

    Well, I’m just a half-hour late to the show.
    As everyone knows by now, yesterday was Blog Action Day, meaning over 12, 000 bloggers all blogged about one topic: poverty.
    I was going to write yesterday, but maybe it’s better that I didn’t.
    I have …


  • annemiek
    annemiek

    October 16, 2008 at 2:09 am

    I live rural, and here I don’t have to go far either to see poverty, and the lines at the food hand out every other week.
    An eye opening book about how hard it is to make a living in a minimum wage job is Nickel and Dimed; http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/nickelanddimed.htm


  • Nurse K
    Nurse K

    October 16, 2008 at 8:07 am

    When I was in Public Health, I was assigned to the county public health office of the richest county in my state. I had to also do a “windshield survey”. My paper was something like “blocks X-Y contain renovated Victorian houses with turrets decorate with flowers in historically-accurate colors….Women jog along the river with their jogging baby strollers drinking bottled water…Further inland from the river we find fewer mansions but still large houses sometimes divided into duplexes. Represented ethnic groups include Caucasian…”


  • Nurse K
    Nurse K

    October 16, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Oh, and PS, if I were poor, the last place I’d live was San Francisco. I couldn’t even afford to live there.


  • Jen
    Jen

    October 16, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    “Universal health care sounds great, but if it doesn’t address health disparities at the financial, social and community level…” (Kim’s words)

    Wow! Kim, you have gone liberal! In fact, if you were up here you’d be beyond Liberal, you’d be NDP (welcome to the club…)and perhaps beyond that! Any fly balls out there in left, left feild?

    Seriously though, universal health can’t fix all of that because health in the west is focused on tertiary (i.e.: hospital) care. In order to fix your list you’ve gotta make a huge commitment to primary health care (i.e.: promotion and prevention)as well as huge government interventions in a wide array of sectors.

    So, barring the major paradigm shift that’s required (good luck with that with govts that don’t even recognise that there’s a worldwide shortage of MDs and RNs), IMO, ya gotta settle for the idea that “everyone can walk into a health care facility and recieve the same basic care regardless of ability to pay” as the “foundation for a healthy life that those of us who are not impoverished enjoy” (your words).

    Sorry for the run-on sentences–I’m not in school anymore so I’ve given up editing!

    Jen, fellow lefty


  • cheritycall
    cheritycall

    October 27, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    hy, Do something to help those hungry people in Africa or India,
    I added this blog about this subject:
    on http://tinyurl.com/5t2jg6


About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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