Friday, September 4, 2015

If You Don't Have Your Health ...

... You're likely to stay poor

My son had his appendix out this week; he was a trooper and everything worked out great. But while we were at the hospital, we noticed a lot of kids who were in poor health or who had profound disabilities. And, as a parent, it made me wonder how the parents were coping and what kind of effect it had on daily living.

For families with chronically sick members or for singles that are chronically ill or have recurring sickness, many ordinary activities – work, school, shopping, chores – become more difficult, chaotic, and expensive. If I have frequent doctor visits, it's harder for me to hold a regular full-time job. Even though online education is becoming more prevalent I'm less likely to reach my potential if I'm chronically ill, thereby reducing my chances of maximizing my lifetime earnings and retirement savings. If I'm homebound or my mobility is impaired, it's more expensive to shop and to do household chores as I have to hire someone to do those things for me.

Some of these inhibiting illness are genetic, some luck of the draw, and some lifestyle – be it personal choice, economic, or environmental. And the poverty cycle is self-reinforcing: as the Food Research and Action Center points out high-calorie, low-nutrition foods are cheap and readily available in poor neighborhoods, raising the related risks of obesity, diabetes, further health problems, and continued poverty.

I don't have any answers here, and that annoys me. Eating well is a personal lifestyle choice for many people but not all. If you're poor and hungry, you'll eat whatever quiets the pangs. Some might argue that poverty itself is a lifestyle choice. But poor, out of work, and sick is a choice few would freely make.