Poor Health and Low Income

The richer you are, the better your chance for good health and a longer life. New research by the Department of Health and Human Services reported in the New York Times, documents that life expectancy is directly related to income. Those with rising income experience longer life span. Health disparity mirrors income disparity.

On the face of it, this isn’t surprising. Those who have access to health care are more likely to benefit from preventive care, early detection and treatment. Some commentators say those with higher income are also likely to have access to information that isn’t available to those with less access to the Internet and other sources of health information. The poor also eat less healthy foods and are more likely to smoke.

The report should be a reminder of the need to expand health care coverage for all. It should also provide data to support extending health care for poor children which President Bush has vetoed because he believes the proposed State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation would lead to socialized medicine. It’s now clear that lack of health care is deadly for the poor.

And it should remind us how our resources are being utilized right now. The Right Rev. Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Church of England, writes in the God’s Politics blog that $1 trillion (Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, estimates the total cost of the war will be $3 trillion) could pay for health care for 530 million children.

In his column on Sunday Nicholas Kristoff puts it succinctly, the Iraq war is burning money at the rate of $5,000 per minute, money that could be put to life-enhancing use.

Kristoff asks us to imagine how that money could be put to use otherwise and one of the alternatives he suggests is “underwriting a global drive to slash maternal mortality, eradicate malaria and de-worm every child in Africa.”

Doubtless it could be done at a fraction of the cost of this war.

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