Marty Raymond, a professor at the School of Nursing at Eastern Michigan University, discussed the connection between poverty and health on Tuesday for the Honors College’s star lecture series on poverty.
Raymond began his lecture by sharing some shocking statistics about infant mortality, race and gender and their relation to poverty to grab the attention of the audience. Then he gave the audience a brief history lesson. He said that the Declaration of Independence states that all men were created equal, but that this isn’t always the case.
“I have news for you,” Raymond said. “We aren’t all created equal. We feel like, in society, we have goals to create this sense of equality, but we aren’t all equal from birth.”
According to Raymond, data indicates that at birth, mortality rates favor a white man over a man of color.
“The lecture was good and interesting. It definitely was a different take on poverty than we have seen in other lectures this past year,” said freshman Alicia Marnon.
Raymond also explained that health could be improved if there was less economic inequality, because increased poverty often spurs a higher mortality rate.
Additionally, those with a lower education level are more at risk of being impoverished in the future. Studies show that increases in education results in health benefits across all income levels since there is more participation in healthier activities, according to Raymond.
For example, lower education is highly predictive of increased smoking behavior.
“Things like smoking are the culture and norm in some neighborhoods. They may not have the luxury to ‘just say no’ to drugs. Although, smoking isn’t such a big issues as other problems. We need to look at the filthy environments that poverty thrives in,” Raymond said.
Location is an important factor in all of this. Raymond showed data that suggested health is bad in poorer neighborhoods largely due to their location and poor access to primary care.
Poverty doesn’t only connect to physical illness, according to Raymond, but also to mental illness.
He said there was a vicious circle that started with mentally impaired individuals not being able to keep jobs. This causes their caretakers to have trouble keeping jobs due to the amount of time they must spend caring for their mentally impaired relative or friend.
Additionally, Raymond said a large portion of the homeless population suffers from some kind of mental illness. The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill leads to life on the streets or in prison.
Raymond said poverty can also connect to bad dental health. Dental health isn’t just about teeth. Bad dental health can lead to heart problems in the future. Unfortunately, dental care is very expensive and isn’t always included with some health care plans.
“I liked the way that he connected all the facts and aspects together about poverty and health issues in America,” freshman Breanna Dahlinghaus said. “Who knew that things like dental health, location and education were connected? It’s obvious that you can’t just solve one part of the problem. You have to attack all points to see any real results.”
Raymond described the city of Detroit as a “food desert” because of its decreased access to fresh foods and increased access to fast foods. Transportation is a big component of this problem as well.
A car can help families get access to supermarkets with healthy food. But a person with no car will simply go around the corner to the party store or other such convenience store to pick up some canned and processed foods.
Raymond pointed out that buying fresh foods can also be less efficient since it goes bad quicker, which requires a family to shop and spend money more often.
“I want everyone to think about the multi-factorial nature of health and the way that all those factors are connected to poverty. It is well beyond individual responsibility. It is the failure to see the truth of the situation,” said Raymond. “Don’t take the sensational media who say ‘with me or against me.’ It’s bologna. Connect the dots and engage in your community.”
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