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Wednesday, 09 September 2015 17:59

Poor Americans in Poor Health

In today’s blog, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses some of the underlying factors that cause many impoverished Americans to suffer poor health.

Income

In March, NPR polled high, medium, and low-income Americans to gauge perceptions on what affects their mental and physical well-being. One third of respondents with a household income below $25,000 indicated that a lack of money has negatively affected their health.

Employment

A 2014 University of Albany study found that losing a job increased a person’s odds of developing stress-related conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke, by 83 percent. It was also indicated in the same study that blue-collar workers were more likely to get laid off due to health-related issues than white-collar workers.

Housing

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, income has declined as rent continues to rise. Those seeking public housing are often faced with excessively long waits, which means that they must “remain in shelters or inadequate housing arrangements longer.” Impoverished neighborhoods are also more likely to have higher rates of crime, which not only increases stress, but is also an extremely negative environment for children who have no other choice but to live there.

Wage-Garnishing

Over the past decade, there has been a suspiciously rapid increase in wage garnishment by credit card companies and, surprisingly, nonprofit hospitals. NPR reports an “explosion” of cases like these in which hospitals’ debt collection services will sue lower-income patients for failing to cover medical bills. Heartland, for example, has garnished the wages of over 6,000 people between 2009 and 2013, charging the maximum interest rates allowed under state law. More than two thirds of these patients were uninsured.

Food

According to the USDA, nearly 15 percent of U.S. households lacked enough food “for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members.” In many cases, especially in urban areas, not getting enough food isn’t the only problem. Many of these areas are considered food deserts, which are marked by a complete lack of access to fresh produce typically found in traditional grocery stores or markets. Instead, residents of impoverished communities are forced to buy food solely from corner stores or convenience stores, which offer nutrient-deficient foods laden with saturated fat and sugar.

 

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Omidi

In today’s blog, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses a recent study that finds more than one million elderly Californians are living in poverty.

“The hidden poor” is a term that is used to describe individuals who have incomes above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, but do not earn enough income to make ends meet. Statistically, they may not meet the calculable criteria to be considered below the poverty line, but they are still lacking the resources to escape from under the weight of poverty.

This is a sad and troubling fact, as it often masks the true severity of poverty as a whole. While there are currently more than 300,000 elderly Californians who are officially classified as poor, according to a recent study performed by UCLA, that number may be more than 1 million when “the hidden poor” are taken into account.

The study was performed by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, and it returned some startling findings. According to the National Poverty Guidelines, the poverty line for a single elderly adult living alone is $10,890 a year. However in California, ULCA’s “elder index” puts that number at $23,364.

While the Census Bureau does utilize a “supplemental measure” for determining cost of living, the study suggests that it is not entirely accurate. Officially, California’s poverty rate is close to the national average, but the study proposes that factoring in the “hidden poor” puts California’s poverty rate at 23.4 percent, making it the nation’s highest.

The calculations performed by UCLA take the cost of living into account, and housing in particular. In areas like San Francisco, where residents traditionally have higher incomes but extremely high housing costs, the rates of elder poverty are considerably higher.

Those individuals over the age of 65 who fall into the “hidden poor” category in California tend to be black and Latino. Their greatest concentrations tend to be in smaller, rural counties that have overall lower incomes. The largest concentration is in Imperial County, where 40 percent of the elderly are classified as “hidden poor.”

The study also found that large proportions of the “hidden poor” population include grandparents who are raising grandchildren, elderly parents with adult children who still live at home, and single or widowed elders.

Poverty is a severe and widespread affliction, but studies such as this show us the true depth of the issue. Reformation of our nation’s standards and classifications for poverty, including factors such as accounting for the “hidden poor” is necessary.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Michael Omidi MD

Dr. Michael Omidi MD is an advocate for the health and wellbeing of people and animals, and is the co-founder of No More Poverty

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 20:27

The Criminalization of Poverty

In today’s entry, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the problem of jailing the poor over their inability to pay fines.

A troubling case earlier this year has called attention to a major societal issue: jailing the poor for failing to pay traffic tickets and other small fines. In January, Missouri resident Edward Brown found his deteriorating home of 25 years condemned by the city, who then sent him a $464 citation for trespassing after he remained in the property. Brown was living off of food stamps and Social Security checks, and was not able to afford to pay the fine—so he has been jailed several times since then.

Issuing arrest warrants for low-level misdemeanor violations has become a shockingly common occurrence in the U.S. as of late. Residents of impoverished communities are finding it increasingly difficult to escape the cycle of poverty under this legislature. Despite local activists’ call for reform over the past decade, no significant changes have been made on a national scale.

One rather unfortunate example is that of Nashville resident Stacey Tuell, who was living out of his car in 2013 and was arrested for a misdemeanor. While in custody, police refused his request to have someone watch his car—which was promptly towed and destroyed by the time he was able to make an attempt to retrieve it. Tuell sued, claiming his constitutional rights were violated, but the case was thrown out.

Many claim that criminalizing the poor is an underhanded way of ensuring a steady stream of city revenue—and at what cost? In May, the National Association of Public Defenders called for the reform of “predatory” criminal court practices in an official statement, some points of which are as follows:

  • Treating fines as civil cases, not criminal cases
  • Providing legal representation to indigent defendants in municipal cases
  • Factoring in a defendant’s income and financial situation before treating nonpayment of a fine as a crime
  • Ending the monetary bond

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Omidi

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 00:00

The Toll on Children Living in Poverty

Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the horrors faced by children living in poverty.

Poverty takes a heavy toll on those living in it. It is especially cruel on children. Children who live in poverty are at risk both physically and mentally. Today, we'll examine some of the ways poverty hurts children and why it’s so important that we reduce this global atrocity.

Poverty Impairs Their Education

In America, many children who live in poverty are lucky enough to attend schools. This isn't the case for all children throughout the world. Many children are denied an education because they are forced at an early age to work to help support their families.

That said, in America, children living in poverty are disadvantaged when it comes to academic performance. Poverty has been linked to lower gray matter in children. This causes issues with cognitive functions and concentration. This can limit their opportunities later in life.

Poverty Impairs Their Health

Health is another factor that is affected when it comes to living in poverty for children. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, many children didn't have access to health care. Still many children living in poverty are prone to health conditions like asthma and child obesity, among others.

Poverty Leads to Crime

In some cases, children living in poverty can turn to a life of crime. This can range from gang affiliation to sex trafficking. This has been reported in Myanmar where underage girls are driven to sex work.

A new study even places blame on most teenage crime because of teenage poverty. Examining 54,094 homicides, were in large done in high poverty populations. Most of the victimization occurred towards 19 year old people, and then declining from there.

As you can see, poverty has a sweeping degree of implications on the lives of children and teens. It impacts their health, education and safety. All of these can significantly stunt their growth as human beings later in life. It can lead to lower paying jobs, criminal records and death. Poverty needs to be addressed.

Without seeing results, poverty will most likely be cyclical. Those who are born into poverty are more likely to be confined to poverty for their adult life. By creating reforms in policy as well as enhanced efforts with outreach, this can be significantly reduced. Get involved and help stop poverty.

Yours in health,

Michael Omidi

Dr. Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty, a non-profit that works to reduce poverty in America and around the globe.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 19:29

The Problem of Concentrated Poverty

Dr. Michael Omidi discusses recent findings that define the most concentrated areas of poverty in the U.S.

A 2014 City Observatory analysis by Joe Cortright examines census data over the past several decades in impoverished areas. Findings suggest that as of 2010, 750 urban areas still had a poverty rate twice the national average—out of 1,100 urban census tracts designated as “high poverty” in 1970. These areas are areas in which poverty is concentrated, and apparently has been since the latter half of the previous century. Concentrated poverty areas are neighborhoods in which 40 percent or more of residents fall below the federal poverty threshold.

A recent Century Foundation study also utilized census data as well as the American Community Survey to examine the changes in these areas of concentrated poverty from 1990 to 2013. They found that during this time, the amount of people living in these areas actually doubled—from 7.2 million to 13.8 million.

These findings suggest that environment is extremely influential to one’s likelihood of attaining personal success. Simply put, those in poor neighborhoods will find it much more difficult to get ahead—and vice versa. Cortright says, “It has become commonplace to observe that a person’s life chances can be statistically explained by their ZIP code.” And this observation doesn’t just apply to urban areas; concentrated poverty has been slowly spreading to the suburbs over the past decade.

Paul Jagrowski, author of the Century Foundation study, suggest two methods which he believes will most effectively reverse the growing poverty rates: 1) for the government to “implement controls over suburban development that can ensure that new housing construction is in line with the growth of a metro population,” and 2) that these controls will ensure that houses are being constructed in direct proportion to the population growth.

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Omidi

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