Regional Health In Focus: Poverty

povertyPoverty is when someone is living with less than enough money for their basic needs. It can affect a person’s health and wellness in many different ways. Not only do those who live in poverty have difficulty accessing and paying for quality health care, but they also have a hard time finding healthy food, safe neighborhoods, housing, transportation and education.

People living in poverty are less likely to have a regular doctor and often visit hospitals and emergency rooms more often than people not in poverty. Poverty can also separate people from their friends, family and other forms of community support, making them feel invisible or forgotten by their neighbors and peers.

Compared to people who are not living in poverty, those who live in households with less than $25,000 of Income are…

more likely to...
not have a primary care physician (24.0% vs. 18.9%)
…have high blood pressure (35.6% vs. 23.7%)
…have only one, two or no close relationships (29.9% vs. 20.4%)
roughly 2x as likely to...
…have a member of their household affected by opiate abuse or addiction (4.3% vs. 2.6%)
…report being a smoker (22.0% vs. 12.2%)
not have a group of people to regularly spend time with (31.8% vs. 13.2%)
…have pre-diabetes (7.8% vs. 3.1%)
…have heart disease (9.2% vs. 4.0%)
…have been hospitalized once in the past year (20.4% vs. 11.6%)
…have been hospitalized more than once in the past year (8.9% vs. 3.3%)
roughly 3x more likely to...
…have COPD (11.2% vs. 3.3%)
…have diabetes (19.6% vs. 6.8%)
more than 4x as likely to...
…have been hospitalized more than twice in the past year (4.4% vs. 0.9%)

What can I do to take action?

Since poverty affects such a large number of people, and each in many different ways, it can be a very difficult problem to solve. However, all members of the community can play a role in helping to prevent and reduce poverty levels.

Here’s a good place to start — take time to connect with your neighbors so you can better understand their challenges, obstacles and goals in life. The more you know about the people in your community, the greater impact you can have when you try to help them.

If you have extra time or money, consider volunteering or making a donation to a local church, food pantry, homeless shelter or other organization that works to prevent poverty or help people in poverty work their way out of it. Your contribution can help make a difference!

Need help? If you are struggling to make ends meet and need help finding affordable food, housing, transportation, child care or other needs, visit

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