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Poverty is a downward spiral. Education affects poverty, poverty affects health, health affects both education and poverty. What to do? “How to break the cycle of poverty and poor education” is an article I found addressing just this predicament. It states that families led by single mothers make up 62% of those suffering from poverty. It brings up the fact that single-mothers with low education are more susceptible to living in poverty than not. It offers a few suggestions that can contribute to solving this problem:

1. Resiliency: It states that single mothers are determined to succeed in this life as seen by micro-financing endeavors. Loans for women in developing countries has helped lift many families out of poverty. Why not bring that to America? He suggests things like Earned Income Tax credit, family leave, quality childcare…

2. Keys to Degrees at Boston’s Endicott College offers single parents special dorms “in which to live with their young children, free meal plans for kids, and career counseling, among other supports.”

3. Focusing on bettering the education of those who are sort of set up for a poor education is another way to alleviate poverty of the future. The author of this article states that they are an investment for the future of America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These suggestions are helpful because they really address some of the main issues behind poverty–lack of education. Perhaps one of the most upstream solutions towards fighting poverty is to better the education of future children. There are so many resources in this world that are available towards bettering their education. I mean look at the One Laptop Per Child program. This is bringing better education to some of the poorest countries! We should be using the resources and talents of the world to lift those in need.

I was really impressed when I found out Zach Stay, 17 year-old from Orem, decided to put together a conference that would fight poverty through technology. It was called the Hacking Poverty Conference, and invited companies and schools in the area to come participate in this free humanitarian event. Some of the participants included i.TV, Maxsam Partners, Perfect Search Corporation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University, and Mountain View High School. This event was dedicated towards thinking of and creating innovative solutions with technology to help alleviate poverty. Stay thought of new ideas like apps for smart phones that are specified towards helping poverty in some way, or an app that records the location of the humanitarian aid that has been given. This was inspiring to me to read about a teenager who felt like using his computer gifts to help others really in need.

Another great effort that is working towards alleviating poverty is One Laptop for Every Child. The mission of this nonprofit is to empower the world’s poorest children through education.

This laptop has the ability to empower a community through it’s families. It starts with the child and moves up to inspire the parents. It is remarkable because it gives these children in the poorest countries to feel equal to children in other countries. Perhaps with the rise in education, they would contribute to the economic growth of their country. This initiative contributes towards alleviating poverty and therefore increasing the life expectancy of children and families all over.

The Gapminder! Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t, but I am so glad I just found out about it. It is a website that allows you access to a myriad of data reporting on world health issues.  I just found an interactive graph that demonstrates the causality between the health and wealth of a nation.

Wealth and Health of North America (click on this link and then explore around on the geographic regions to see the gaps between health and GDP of a nation)

This graph, like the one linked above is another that contributes to the link between income and life expectancy.

 

 

 

 

 

I think I’ve made my point that the income of an individual affects their health. But what about the other way around? Does the health of an individual affect their income? Science Journal published an article, The Health and Wealth of Nations, that proves this point exactly. They give the following as reasons why health increases income: productivity, education, investment in physical capital, and demographic dividend. My favorite part of the article points out that investing in a nation’s health will have a huge affect in stabilizing a nation’s economy and is a breakthrough for international development.

I definitely agree with both sides of the income-health relationship. It’s unfortunate that they have such a powerful affect on each other because of the trap it places some individuals in. How can you get healthy if you have a lower socioeconomic status, but how can you get out of that status with poor health? As public health officials it is our duty to intercept this downward spiral. We can go about it from one way-fixing the economy, or primarily fix the health of individuals and then hope that they will contribute to a more stabilized economy. Either way we should just do something.

Here is a really awesome company that is using innovative solutions to help lives from all over. They are contributing to the world of community development through business opportunities. Fairbourne Consulting works towards international development by developing communities at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid using business!

I heard about this company and was truly inspired by their philosophy. This is one segment from their About Us page on their website:

“We believe that everyone at the BoP deserves human dignity and that the best way to increase dignity is to treat people as equals, rather than poor people. Our philosophy is that doing business with the poor increases their dignity and self-respect. As equals, our clients have a symbiotic relationship with the poor where they earn profit with the poor, not off the poor. We design innovative businesses that build self-confidence, increase self-reliance, and increase personal dignity for all.”

I really think that this should be the philosophy of anyone who is trying to lift individuals from poverty. This is just an example of one company that is using private business and non-profit organizations to get people out of the trap of poverty. They go into a community, find out what the community really actually wants, starts up a business, and gives it to the locals to run. This is an example of microfranchising. With the start up of businesses in communities, comes a wave of new job opportunities which help the individual while helping the economy.

As I have been reading and blogging about these types of organizations, I can’t help but think, “These are really great and work internationally in developing countries, but what about a developed country like America? How can we continue to develop the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid and health in America?” What do you think? If you have any ideas, I would love to hear about them.

 

The Beatles

I came across a blog post on the Harvard Business Review, titled Changing Health and Wealth Behavior with Analytics. It argued that wealth are correlated to some degree, but ultimately both the health and wealth of an individual is determined by the individual’s behavior. The author says that people should take responsibility for their health by making healthy food decisions, and also fix their economic situation by saving money instead of spending it. This argument places too much weight on “The American Dream.” We cannot oversimplify the poverty burden in America by saying that they just did not try hard enough to gain control over their life. While that is very very true in some situations, it is not in all situations. This argues against Sir Michael Marmot’s determinants of health, and also implies that an individual has more power over their life than their environment does. Another article found on Associated Content qualifies and takes a stance that both influence a person’s health, and wealth can improve but not determine health. This is probably one of those topics in public health that will be constantly debated over–an individual’s personal responsibility to their OWN health, or society’s duty to them.

I personally believe that it is a combination of both. Society does have an impact on a person’s health, and wealth. There are certain uncontrollable things that will have an affect on a person’s success in life, an example being where a child’s parents could afford a home. Being in a a neighborhood that will expose the child to certain factors like violence, drugs, pollution, lack of outdoor recreation, will then influence that child’s health. That child was brought into a situation or environment that sets them up for future health and financial problems. They cannot be blamed for what they were brought into. However, there is something powerful in “The American Dream.” People can come to America, work hard and thrive. It’s been done time and time again. That is what America was founded on, and I believe that dream will never die. It has been embedded into our hearts and will continue to offer hope to Americans all over.

I found this clip of Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and The Outliers. He is being interviewed on ForaTv. One of his books addresses the question: are The Beatles a prodigy or not? He says not. He explains how just before The Beatles conquered the world in 1964, they played in a strip club in Hamberg, Germany. They played 8 hour sets for months and months before they made it big. Before that time they were just not that good. He argues that because they were forced into that situation, they learned the skills needed to become masters of rock. I think this example of The Beatles give way to both sides of the argument, individuals or environment. There was something out of their control that forced them to play that often, and those long hours, which gave them their success. However, they personally had to choose to do it. They had to be determined, persevere and decide to work as hard as they could to become successful.

Give A Little

An article in the Wall Street Journal called “16 Tycoons Agree to Give Away Fortunes,” reports that Mark Zuckerberg and 15 other wealthy individuals agreed to give away over half of his wealth either in his lifetime or after he dies. WOW…. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates organized a an effort called The Giving Pledge,where they ask the wealthiest individuals in the U.S. to donate most of their wealth to charitable causes. This to me is hopeful, good, and can have a large effect.

This to me represents what wealthy people in America can do with their money. There is an easy access route and influential individuals already pledging large amounts of money. The Giving Pledge really has potential to start a philanthropic trend amongst Americans. Innovations for Poverty Action states that 89% of Americans give to charity. This statistic, along with the fact that the wealthiest individuals in America decided to create The Giving Pledge effort, leads me to believe that Americans really WANT to donate to charities.

Charities do not answer all problems associated with poverty, but it does answer the question in my mind, do Americans want to help?

Thanks for all of the comments thus far! I chose to look further into and elaborate possible solutions to the health and wealth problem based off of a comment left on one of my posts. Allysong21 suggested that a strong sense of community can give a huge support in protecting people from negative health outcomes. I completely agree! I am not sure if this post is exactly what she meant, but this is how I ran with it.

Community building and strengthening has a lot of power because of the support it brings to the individuals involved. Strong supportive environments will help communities stay in touch with the actual problems they are faced with. Because of that, the members in the community can feel empowered to take action on those issues. This instills strength, confidence, and a family-like support. It utilizes the community members’ expertise and talents, so to speak, to help those lacking in those areas.

The World Bank has a page that explains community building in a comprehensive way.  The World Bank is an organization that works towards a world free of poverty. They highly support the ideas of community building as strategies to combat poverty and therefore, health. The International Development Association, IDA, has been successful at raising $1.3 billion a year and works towards placing the power of developing the community directly into the hands of those community members. They have been able to lift many villagers out of poverty in places like Tanzania, Indonesia, and Senegal (just to name a few).

This is great in developing nations, but what does that mean in the United States? How do you bring this to America? Part of why these community developing initiatives work so well is because they get to know the community. They allow the actual people to make a change. Well can that be done here in America? I submit that it can. As public health officials, we should work towards getting to know poverty stricken communities and asking them what they want, instead of telling them what they need. Community building in America can be the same way. Getting to know the most poverty stricken communities through influential community members, and getting to know the gaps–what is keeping them from behaving healthy. As public health officials it is our duty to overcome those barriers by utilizing the community members’ resources. Let’s empower the members to work together and build their community through self-discipline, self-reliance, and patience. Let the power be in their hands.