The Quest to End Poverty in America Part 11

Health Care Programs

    Much of the conversation around health care in the United States has revolved around health insurance.  Health insurance only helps if you get sick.  But that is only part of the problem.  Have you ever had to deal with insurance companies?  They can find a loop hole and they use more tiny print than any other industry.  If they can find a way not to pay out they will do so.  Recently I learned that it is not much better from the doctor’s side of things as they deal with these insurance companies.  Additionally the concept of using insurance to solve our health problems is increasing the demand.

    There has got to be a better way to help people who are sick get well. 

Among the concepts with promise is community or neighborhood clinics.  These clinics would be staffed by medical and nursing students.  In essence grants would pay for their education and in return these students to include doctors that have recently graduated would operate the clinics.  These doctors get to know the neighborhoods most common issues.  Which health issues seem to be environmentally related?  Is there something that we could change that would make the neighborhood healthier?  This medical staff could provide annual training for people in the neighborhood to provide a multitude of prevention information.  This concept would increase the supply which will lower the overall cost of health care in our nation.

    Better than working to treat those who are sick I present the following as areas that we can focus on to reduce the number of sick people in the first place.  This would more honestly represent health care instead of sick care.

“He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything.”

- Proverb

Nutrition

     While there are multiple ideas on what constitutes good nutrition there are some basic things that are agreed upon.  First is that processed food is generally bad for your long term health.  Yes it can feed the hungry.  But in the long term much of it leads to obesity and a whole range of other health issues.  Take a moment to look at the ingredients list on most of the processed foods.  How many of those ingredients can you easily pronounce?  That should make us nervous.  In truth most of those in the middle and wealth class eat some of those foods but also have the resources to experience fresh foods and meals where one can easily pronounce all of the ingredients.  Overall the impact of processed foods for these two classes is reduced.  What about those in poverty?  When you look through most food banks a large amount of the food that is given away comes from this processed food category.  Unfortunately we as a society have now trained the taste buds of these men and women.  They now prefer this food to the detriment of their own health. 

    At the shelter where I work we will put out vegetables and fruit with meals and with snacks.  Very few will even look at it twice before passing on the veggies and heading for whatever else might be served.  We typically get around this by serving soups where most of the food groups are covered in one bowl.

    This will take time but we must make the adjustment to fresh foods for those in poverty.  Yes it will cost more up front but it will save us a great deal in the long run.  Think of this in terms of these facts.

  • Those who eat healthy are better employees.
  • Those that eat healthy have fewer colds and take fewer sick days.
  • Those that eat healthy have more emotional control.
  • Those that eat healthy have fewer heart related illnesses.
  • Those that eat healthy are less likely to experience the unhealthy effects of obesity.

    Thinking of nutrition in this way will enable us to help people rise out of poverty by helping them get into the work force and stay there.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Exercise

    I once knew a woman who would go to church on Sunday and then spend most of the rest of the week in her recliner.  When visiting with her it was obvious that she rarely moved from the chair.  Her fridge was right there within arms reach and she had a hot plate and microwave also within arms reach.  If she had thought of a bed pan I started to believe that she would never get up from that chair that also served as a bed.  The lack of activity ultimately took a toll on her body and she did not live to be very old. 

    Lack of movement is at a critical stage in our nation.  In the past people would walk most places and enjoyed an abundance of fresh air.  With all of our modern technology we can order in food, watch movies on demand and never leave the comfort and safety of our homes.  Too many maintain a job where they are stuck behind a desk. 

    We must get moving again.  Most that do choose exercise do it through an appearance motive.  But exercise does much more than that.  Exercise enables your heart to grow stronger.  Your lungs take in fresh air and start to pass that oxygen on into your blood stream.  With a healthy diet your muscles and bones benefit greatly from this exercise and you will experience more joys in your older years.

     I have a friend who is still active at 92 years old and is living life unlike the kids of 81 and 85 that he routinely visits.  While he is slowing down and definitely does not move as fast as he once did, he is still an active man who is enjoying his life.  Compare that to many that I see at nursing homes.  My young niece had her first experience at the nursing home to visit my grandfather.  When she walked in she noticed all of these people sleeping in their wheel chairs and she asked if they were all dead.  That is what awaits someone who does not get and remain active.

    For those in poverty the impact of losing mobility can even be life threatening.  They are more likely to be robbed, hurt and left for dead.  Think back to the story of the Good Samaritan.  Additionally, loss of health may prove costly if they are younger as most are working for an hourly wage.  Less hours of work equals less pay.  We need to encourage those in poverty to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.

Healthy Lifestyle

    Healthy eating and exercise can take people a long way toward an overall more satisfying life.  However, consider other areas that will make for a healthier lifestyle

.       Offering incentives, encouragement and training to help people quit smoking can help them rise out of poverty.  A majority of those in poverty may not be able to afford food and healthcare but they find a way to buy a pack of smokes.  What if that money could be used for something that won’t lead to future health issues? 

    Clean is free.  Having a clean and orderly home can also lead to good physical health.  Since this may not have been a part of the culture of poverty this would be a good place for a mentor to step in and teach and then offer accountability to come back and make sure that they are keeping up with their cleanliness.

    All of these things and likely more thoughts are really about health care and in most cases would save a great deal of money and time. 

Application Questions

1) Develop a health protection plan for yourself.  Include all of the areas listed above.  Develop one for your family. 

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