Poverty and Poor health

Key Facts: Poverty and Poor Health

Approximately 1.2 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty (less than one dollar per day). Poverty creates ill-health and loss of a healthy life because it forces people to live in environments that make them sick, without decent shelter, clean water or adequate sanitation.

What links poverty and poor health?

Poverty and poor health worldwide are inextricably linked. The causes of poor health for millions globally are rooted in political, social and economic injustices. Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor health. Poverty increases the chances of poor health. Poor health in turn traps communities in poverty, which is often detrimental long term. 

What other links are there between poverty and poor health?

The economic and political structures which sustain poverty and discrimination need to be transformed in order for poverty and poor health to be tackled.

Marginalised groups and vulnerable individuals are often worst affected, deprived of the information, adequate money, proper nutrition, equal access to healthcare and wellness services that would help them prevent and treat disease. Not only that but their physical and mental health are greatly affected. 

Very poor and vulnerable people may have to make harsh choices – knowingly putting their health and well being at risk. The cultural and social barriers faced by marginalised groups  and communities can mean they use health services less, with serious consequences for their health and well being. This perpetuates their disproportionate levels of poverty.

The cost of medical fees, a course of drugs and transport to reach a health centre can be devastating, both for an individual and their relatives who need to care for them or help them reach and pay for treatment. In the worst cases, the burden of illness may mean that families having to sell their property or in some communities take children out of school to earn a living.

The burden of caring is often taken on by a female relative, who may have to give up her education as a result, or take on waged work to help meet the household’s costs. Missing out on education has long-term implications for a woman’s opportunities later in life and for her own health and well-being.

Diseases As A Result Of Poverty And Poor Health?

HIV, diarrhoea, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as communicable respiratory diseases such as pneumonia is cause of most in poor communities. It has been reported that diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria account for nearly half of all child deaths globally. As well, neglected tropical diseases affect over one billion people, almost all in the poorest and most marginalised communities. Non-communicable diseases also affects poorer and marginalised communities. 

Fighting Poverty For Better Health Outcome

Reducing poverty, improving nutrition and making sure people have access to healthcare and services, to safe water and sanitation, as well as strengthening national health systems, is of the utmost importance. 

Tackling the structural causes of poverty and poor health, for example calling for measures to tackle inequality and injustices are central to what is needed from the global community. We need to take care of the health and well-being of all, healthcare is a human right. 

Sherldine Tomlinson.