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Tuesday, November 14th 2006

Why Wide Wealth Gaps Hurt Health

You don’t get more liberal than Common Good. But, here’s an interesting article on how wealth inequality hurts health. Socialism here we come!

[O]ur wealth distribution has been becoming increasingly disparate. Today, many corporate executives earn more money in a couple of hours than the average factory worker makes in a year. The wealthiest 1 percent of America’s population owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. And the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by 37 percent since 1968, and become the lowest of any industrialized nation.

What impact is this having on the health of our people?

With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for nearly 50 percent of the world’s healthcare spending, yet ranks only 26th in life expectancy, and 28th in infant mortality. Is it a coincidence that not a single one of the 25 countries that have longer life expectancies than the United States, nor a single one of the 27 countries that have better infant mortality rates, has as wide a wealth gap between its richest and poorest citizens?

It goes on with the same old song and dance aout how America’s health care sucks (A contention which isn’t truly based on facts…put down the damn Big Mac America! Then you can complain about being 26th in life expectancy and high health care costs.)

But then it goes on to some more releavant points,

Last week, the Trust for America’s Health issued a report finding that in the past year, obesity had increased in 31 states, while decreasing in none. The states with the highest rates of obesity are also those with the greatest wealth inequality.

There are so many ways that economic stress can compromise people’s health. Often, people struggling to meet their basic needs are left with little time to spend with their families.

Obesity and other “life style” health choices are associated with poor socioeconomic standing for a number of reasons. Nutrion and health illiteracy (some of which must lie with personal responsibility) and of course access to food or clean air or whatever.

The AMA voted on two reccommendations at their Interim Meeting this week – a tax on high fat foods (fast foods) and a tax on soft drinks. These are issues that affect the way in which the wealth gap affects health.

I wanted to shout both of them down. Not only is the tax regressive but it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem often. Who cares if you tax fast food if that is truly the only option in someone’s neighborhood. Only market forces and education can open up health eating choices for America’s poor.

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