Monday, May 27, 2013

Poverty and Health

Here was an interesting piece of research that is being reported on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It links into debates on the social determinants of health. It has been argued (and shown) on many occasions that folks lower down the socio-economic pecking order are more likely to suffer from a whole host of chronic (as well as sometimes even infectious) diseases. It turns out, they're more likely to suffer from ' increased rates of death and illness including diabetes, mental illness, stroke, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, central nervous system disease and injuries.' Indeed, kids brought up in situation subjecting them to what professionals refer to as 'toxic stress', that includes substandard housing, living with adults who are also stressed due to their socioeconomic circumstances, experience stunted brain development according to a technical report published in 2013 in the journal Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a large-scale technical report in the end of 2012 that reaches similar conclusions.

No wonder a family medicine specialist in Toronto, Gary Bloch, is quoted in the CBC article as follows, 'Treating people at low income with a higher income will have at least as big an impact on their health as any other drugs that I could prescribe them.'

Such findings must have an impact on ongoing ethics debates among public health ethics experts on how to deal with illnesses such as obesity. Would nudging or stigmatising people who have already lost out on much of what constitutes a good life due to the poverty they experiencing be truly fair? Or would it place additional unfair burdens on those already struggling to live a decent life? Perhaps campaigning for better education and jobs for all would be a better placed priority than figuring out what drugs best control obesity? Difficult one.

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