An article published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association underscores the high societal price associated with poverty — an economic reality for 50 million Americans.
The article cites research that focuses on the results of the experimental Community Health Worker Program — a program that channels health care workers in poverty stricken areas to proactively intervene in the lives of patients living in poverty by giving them nutritional and health care guidance. Many of those living in poverty rely on cheaper fast food to fill their hunger, thereby depriving themselves of vital nutrients that could improve their physical and emotional well-being.
The program is based on the “upstream” analogy — a scenario where hundreds of children are floating in a river that is fast approaching a waterfall. Instead of snagging kids as they inch ever closer to the watery abyss, it would make more sense to travel upstream to figure out who’s throwing them in the river in the first place. Valid point.
In areas where the CHW program was implemented, half of those who were proactively guided in making lifestyle changes were not nearly as likely to keep having to seek medical attention for multiple events than those who were not involved in such programs.
The implications are far reaching, not only on a societal level, but on the economic front as well, since physical health is a priori when it comes to being a viable member of the labor force. On an emotional level, the benefits can be even more profound by helping those stuck in the throes of poverty make choices that will give them feelings of mastery, along with greater physical health.
Swimmin’ upstream may not be such a bad thing, after all. . .