NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Why The Poor are in Poor Health

July 24, 2000

Experts say that even the 44 million Americans without health insurance can get health services in a variety of ways. And while the poor suffer higher rates of ill-health, they add, some of them are responsible for their own maladies.

  • Poverty, they point out, involves lifestyles that includes improper diets, inadequate housing and a whole host of stressors that can lead to disease.
  • Poor people are usually less likely to adhere to the prescribed health-care regimen -- from forgetting to take their medicines to ignoring advice to change their lifestyles.
  • Poor people suffer needlessly from chronic ailments because they live from one crisis to the next -- dealing only with what is immediately before them and putting off everything else.
  • Some poor patients reportedly shun the advice of "white" doctors because some neighborhood "leaders" falsely claim that local residents are offered bogus treatments because of their race.

One study found that residents of New York City's Spanish Harlem, where the average annual income is $18,700, were hospitalized for asthma at a rate of 222 per 10,000 -- but in another neighborhood in the city, where the average annual income is $103,000, not a single asthma case required hospitalization.

Source: Scott Gottlieb (British Medical Journal), "Health-Care Rankings Ignore Poverty," USA Today, July 24, 2000.


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