Poverty is complex. And health challenges go hand-in-hand with poverty for families across the country. Often, families coping with a health issue face a life a poverty. Other times, a health care emergency for an otherwise stable family sends them spiraling out of control with medical bills and missed work. Those with a disability are set up for additional challenges.
Health, earnings, and poverty are deeply enmeshed, and finding solutions to improve the health of low-income Americans is one of the most crucial parts of fighting poverty.
More than 72 million Americans are on Medicaid—over 20% of our country’s population. Medicaid provides health care coverage to low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with disabilities.
Children make up almost half of this number. And anywhere in the country, children from low-income families have worse health outcomes than other children when it comes to infant mortality, low birth weight, asthma, obesity, injuries, and mental health problems.
Poor health often persists into adulthood, and disability becomes more likely with age. One in four U.S. adults has a disability that affects major life activities; this ratio increases to two in five for adults over age 65.
Nursing home costs can be out of reach for low-income families, and so many must keep and care for an ailing loved one at home, with or without the help of medically-trained caregivers. While the aging baby boomer generation and increased life expectancy is increasing demand for such caregivers in the U.S., the pool of potential caregivers is shrinking due to lower fertility and growing shares of employed women. Conservative estimates find that, by 2030, there will be a national shortage of 151,000 paid direct care workers. This will leave the 3.8 million unpaid family caregivers without the medical support and respite that these workers provide. To put this in perspective, this means the caretaker shortage is expected to exceed the number of school teachers within the next 10 years.
Social factors—such as economic stability, environment, education, nutrition, and access to health care—impact health outcomes for Americans. These outcomes include mortality, morbidity, life expectancy, hospitalizations, and health care spending—factors which further impact a family’s economic stability and other poverty-related factors.
It all ties together: Improving health outcomes improves our society and reduces poverty.
Because poor health outcomes lead to poverty and poverty leads to poor health outcomes, we need more evidence about how to improve health for low-income Americans. How do we ensure they have access to the health care services they need? What will give children a healthy start to life? How do we address the home health care worker shortage in America? What interventions impact health and poverty outcomes for low-income Americans the most? How do we help people improve their health so they can life their best lives?
We are working with partners across the United States to find answers to these questions and shed more light on how to reduce poverty through evidence-based programs and policies. Learn with us.
Catholic Social Services of Alaska; Providence Alaska Medical Center; Alaska Regional Hospital; Alaska Native Medical Center; Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; Southcentral Foundation | Alaska
Catholic Charities Chicago; Franciscan St. James Health; Ingalls Memorial Hospital; Little Company of Mary Hospital; Metro South Medical Center | Illinois
Helping Restore Ability | Texas
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa; the Department of Health Services of Sonoma County; St. Joseph’s Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital; Sutter Santa Rosa; Kaiser Permanente of Santa Rosa | California
Catholic Charities Chicago | Illinois