Poverty: Number 1 Public Health Concern

Poverty has always been the main concern not just in America but everywhere else in the world. Some countries have it worse and some don’t have it as bad. There are over a billion people living in extreme poverty around the world and most of them suffer from infectious disease, hunger, and high infant mortality. Just in America alone, there are over 50 million people living in poverty and the number just keeps rising every day. It prevents people from getting access to medical care, prescription drugs, and adequate nutrition. Poverty is the number one public health concern that needs to be addressed.

When it comes to poverty, most countries in Africa have the highest rate of poverty. According to the article,10 Facts on Health Inequities, “They are at least 16.000 children dying every day of pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, and other diseases and most children are 14 times more likely to die before the age of 5 in sub-Saharan Africa than the rest of the world. Children from the poorest 20% of households are nearly twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as children in the richest 20%” (slide 2). This shows that poverty does lead to ill health. Living in poor conditions or even overcrowded conditions can result in the spread of airborne diseases like tuberculosis and respiratory infections. And in a lot of countries in Africa, there are issues of lack of food, clean water, and sanitation which can also be fatal. The main cause of poverty in Africa is poor healthcare because ” the poor cannot afford to purchase what is needed for good health, including sufficient quantities of quality food and healthcare itself”( Project, para. 7).

When looking at the top causes of poverty around the world, the top 5 are inadequate access to clean water, little to no access to livelihood or jobs, inequality, poor education, and poor healthcare system. A person’s education level, employment status, and income level all affect how healthy a person is (10 Facts on Health Inequities and their Causes, para.1). This means that people that are in poverty are at a higher risk and people that are higher in the socio-economic position have better health because they have access to better healthcare, better education, and better jobs. But when it comes to the inequality of income, it seems almost impossible to eliminate, but just leaving it as it is “these permissible income inequalities will (continue to) generate health inequalities if they are left in place” ( Sreenivasan, para. 69). Furthermore, the reason why poverty remains is that when a child has poor health and are living on less than $1 per day, it affects their school performance and that leads to the inability to find good work and to support the next family so basically, the cycle of poverty never ends. People who are enduring poverty like mentioned above are less educated and that results in them having less knowledge about activities to promote health and when to access health care.

Poverty and poor health worldwide are related. Political, social, and economic injustice are the main causes of poor health for millions of people globally and poverty is a cause and consequence of poor health. In order for poverty and poor health to be tackled, the economic and political structures which sustain poverty and inequality need to be transformed. Everyone deserves health care services but currently, millions of people are being deprived of those services because they don’t have the money and access for it. To help reduce poverty, it is important to make sure millions of people have improved nutrition, have access to safe water and sanitation, and strengthening national health systems. Along with other parts like making sure children have access to education, and the parents who need to provide for their children to have access to good-paying jobs. Tackling the structural causes of poverty is what will help millions of people.


“10 Facts on Health Inequities and Their Causes.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 21 Apr. 2017, http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/health_inequities/en/.

Project, Borgen. “Identifying the Multiple Causes of Poverty in Africa.” The Borgen Project, Borgen Project Https://Borgenproject.org/Wp-Content/Uploads/The_Borgen_Project_Logo_small.Jpg, 16 Dec. 2019, borgenproject.org/causes-of-poverty-in-africa/.

Sreenivasan, Gopal. “Justice, Inequality, and Health.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 27 Aug. 2014, plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-inequality-health/.