Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Poor Concentration: Poverty Reduces Brainpower Needed for Navigating Other Areas of Life

Something I’ve suspected all along…now it seems to be quantified..

From the 29 August 2013 article at Science Daily

Poverty and all its related concerns require so much mental energy that the poor have less remaining brainpower to devote to other areas of life, according to research based at Princeton University. As a result, people of limited means are more likely to make mistakes and bad decisions that may be amplified by — and perpetuate — their financial woes.

Published in the journal Science, the study presents a unique perspective regarding the causes of persistent poverty. The researchers suggest that being poor may keep a person from concentrating on the very avenues that would lead them out of poverty. A person’s cognitive function is diminished by the constant and all-consuming effort of coping with the immediate effects of having little money, such as scrounging to pay bills and cut costs. Thusly, a person is left with fewer “mental resources” to focus on complicated, indirectly related matters such as education, job training and even managing their time.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that pressing financial concerns had an immediate impact on the ability of low-income individuals to perform on common cognitive and logic tests. On average, a person preoccupied with money problems exhibited a drop in cognitive function similar to a 13-point dip in IQ, or the loss of an entire night’s sleep.

“Stress itself doesn’t predict that people can’t perform well — they may do better up to a point,” Shafir said. “A person in poverty might be at the high part of the performance curve when it comes to a specific task and, in fact, we show that they do well on the problem at hand. But they don’t have leftover bandwidth to devote to other tasks. The poor are often highly effective at focusing on and dealing with pressing problems. It’s the other tasks where they perform poorly.”

The fallout of neglecting other areas of life may loom larger for a person just scraping by, Shafir said. Late fees tacked on to a forgotten rent payment, a job lost because of poor time-management — these make a tight money situation worse. And as people get poorer, they tend to make difficult and often costly decisions that further perpetuate their hardship, Shafir said. He and Mullainathan were co-authors on a 2012 Science paper that reported a higher likelihood of poor people to engage in behaviors that reinforce the conditions of poverty, such as excessive borrowing.

“They can make the same mistakes, but the outcomes of errors are more dear,” Shafir said. “So, if you live in poverty, you’re more error prone and errors cost you more dearly — it’s hard to find a way out.”

The researchers suggest that services for the poor should accommodate the dominance that poverty has on a person’s time and thinking. Such steps would include simpler aid forms and more guidance in receiving assistance, or training and educational programs structured to be more forgiving of unexpected absences, so that a person who has stumbled can more easily try again.

“You want to design a context that is more scarcity proof,” said Shafir, noting that better-off people have access to regular support in their daily lives, be it a computer reminder, a personal assistant, a housecleaner or a babysitter.

“There’s very little you can do with time to get more money, but a lot you can do with money to get more time,” Shafir said. “The poor, who our research suggests are bound to make more mistakes and pay more dearly for errors, inhabit contexts often not designed to help.”

 

Read the entire article here

 

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poorest Miss Out On Benefits, Experience More Material Hardship, Since 1996 Welfare Reform, USA

 

From the 17 September 2011 article at Medical News Today

Although the federal government’s 1996 reform of welfare brought some improvements for the nation’s poor, it also may have made extremely poor Americans worse off, new research shows.

The reforms radically changed cash assistance – what most Americans think of as ‘welfare’ – by imposing lifetime limits on the receipt of aid and requiring recipients to work. About the same time, major social policy reforms during the 1990s raised the benefits of work for low-income families.

In the wake of these changes, millions of previous welfare recipients, largely single mothers, entered the workforce. At the same time, welfare has become more difficult to obtain for families at the very bottom, who often have multiple barriers to work. As a result, in the new welfare system, the working poor may be doing better while the deeply poor are doing worse..

..

“This is the first study to use nationally representative survey data to compare the material hardships of deeply poor households with children to other low-income groups of lower-income households with children, before and after the 1990s welfare reforms,” Ybarra writes. The scholars studied data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation from 1992 to 2005 to determine how the deeply poor fared compared to the near poor. They found:

  • While the amount of public aid received by deeply poor households fell dramatically, it increased substantially for near poor families, particularly through expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit that reduces income taxes for certain people with low or moderate wages.
  • Among deeply poor households with children, 48 percent reported in 2005 they did not have enough money to cover most of their essential household expenses, compared with 45 percent in 1992 and 37 percent in 1995.
  • In contrast, among near poor households with children, 30 percent reported in 2005 that they had difficulty meeting their household expenses, down from 37.9 percent in 1992.
  • Even among deeply poor households, 41 percent of household heads were working in 2005. But this is well below the proportion for near poor households, in which 88 percent of household heads work. This may be because household heads among the deeply poor were more likely to report a work-limiting disability.

Among deeply poor households with children, a rising proportion are surviving on virtually no income – $2 a day or less in any given month, according to a companion study released by Shaefer and Kathryn Edin, professor of public policy and management at Harvard University. In fact they found that 1.46 million households with children fall under this metric, used to measure poverty in developing nations….

 

September 17, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A prescription to address healthcare’s blind side

A prescription to address healthcare’s blind side

An excerpt from the KevinMD.com blog item by 

f you have read Michael Lewis’ book, The Blind Side, or seen the popular movie based on it, you know that the title refers to the fact that quarterbacks, who are typically right-handed, can’t see when a 300-pound opponent is charging at them from the left side. Not being able to see the full picture puts the quarterback directly in harm’s way and makes it harder for his team to succeed.

There’s a blind side to health care too, and it’s keeping us from doing what matters most to improve people’s health and deal with our long term medical costs.

A recent poll of physicians revealed that 4 out of 5 believe that unmet social needs — things like nutritious food, transportation, adequate housing and employment assistance — are leading to worse health outcomes for their patients. And those physicians do not feel confident in their capacity to do much about them.

We know that our zip code can be even more powerful than our genetic code when it comes to people’s health.  Indeed, the conditions people live in day in, day out—and where and how they live, learn, work and play—have a greater impact on their health than the medical  care they receive to repair the damage to their health.

We can, and simply must, do more to keep people as healthy as possible in the first place.  And that means taking a serious look at those factors in our neighborhoods, workplaces and schools that shape our health from the earliest years of life….

 

…An organization called Health Leads has bridged this gap for physicians and patients in the six cities in which they currently operate. It empowers doctors to help remove the social barriers that keep people from taking the actions they need to be healthy. Doctors at facilities where Health Leads exists literally write prescriptions that help struggling families access basic resources like heat for their homes, subsidized child care or food for their kitchen tables.

 From the Health Leads Web Pages

Health Leads mobilizes undergraduate volunteers, in partnership with providers in urban clinics, to connect low-income patients with the basic resources — such as food, housing, and heating assistance — that they need to be healthy.

  • 6 cities
  • 21 sites
  • 1,000 volunteers
  • 9,000 patients

With Health Leads, a doctor can “prescribe” food, housing, health insurance, job training, fuel assistance, or other critical resources – just as they would medication. Patients take their prescriptions to the clinic waiting room, where Health Leads’ college volunteers are ready to connect them to these resources.

Health Leads’ straightforward, preventative referrals to government and community resources enable families to avert crises and to access increased income and education, which have been documented to result in better long-term health outcomes.

Health Leads‘ 21 desks are located in pediatric outpatient, adolescent, and prenatal clinics, newborn nurseries, pediatric emergency rooms, health department clinics, and federally qualified health centers.

Last year, Health Leads trained and deployed nearly 1,000 college volunteers to connect nearly 9,000 low-income patients and their families to the resources they need to be healthy.

By providing a transformative experience for hundreds of college volunteers, Health Leads is producing a pipeline of new leaders who will have both the conviction and the ability to revolutionize health care.

Health Leads volunteers are not social workers, but work in conjunction with trained and licensed social workers, nurses, physicians, legal aid workers and other clinical staff to ensure that patients can get and stay healthy.

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

How Human Services Programs and Their Clients Can Benefit from National Health Reform Legislation

urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

From the Report Summary (Urban Institute)

Human services programs-the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, subsidized child care, etc.-and their clients can benefit from national health reform. Millions of low-income health coverage applicants can be connected with human services programs, as the latter programs: (a) help health programs efficiently reach eligible consumers; (b) access unprecedented, time-limited federal funding for modernizing eligibility computer systems while limiting risks to current funding; (c) keep social services offices available as an avenue for seeking health coverage; and (d) use a forthcoming Medicaid expansion to accomplish core human services goals related to employment and child development.

 

 

November 17, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: