Mr. Thomas Furlong provided interesting comments about the state of poverty and the so-called "mantra from the left" regarding the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor (Letters, "Poverty 'a transient state,' reader claims," Aug. 6, 2008, Gazette). Furlong also went on to note that "numbers and graphs are largely irrelevant, especially when looking at poverty."
I was surprised to actually hear him admit that he might not base his opinions on information or research at hand. Yes, we know that statistics can lie. This is the very reason educated individuals rely on a body of research, rather than one or two studies alone, when developing their opinions.
I am shouting it from the rooftops: The body of research is here. Last spring, OETA provided a series, "Unnatural Causes," which looked at extensive research from many experts across our nation on this very issue. Not only is the widening gap an issue for those in poverty "¦ it is an issue for those of us in the middle (and upper) classes.
Our health at any level of society in our great country is far below the health of our counterparts in industrialized nations (who do not have the income gap that we do). Add to this that families who are "working poor" (i.e. working a job " or two or three " but with no health insurance or benefits) are not in a "transient state" but a constant state of stress. Those who are working poor rarely find themselves in a temporary situation. Many have their circumstances compounded by medical debt.
The shocking reality is, many countries that are far poorer than us have a smaller income gap between the classes and therefore better health among their population at all income levels. Remember the good old days? My grandparents would make comments about their childhood that went something like, "We were poor, but we didn't know we were poor. Because we were like everyone else."
Long gone are those days in the United States of America. Those living in poverty, and those who are working poor in our country have health outcomes that are far below the rest of society.
But here's the kicker: We all have health outcomes below our income bracket counterparts in other industrialized (and some developing) nations. Experts in various fields are telling us the same thing. Our health inequities are tied to this widening income gap. When will we learn that by taking care of the least of us, we take better care of all of us?
"J. Sunshine Cowan, Edmond