Wednesday, 09 September 2015 17:59

Poor Americans in Poor Health

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In today’s blog, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses some of the underlying factors that cause many impoverished Americans to suffer poor health.

Income

In March, NPR polled high, medium, and low-income Americans to gauge perceptions on what affects their mental and physical well-being. One third of respondents with a household income below $25,000 indicated that a lack of money has negatively affected their health.

Employment

A 2014 University of Albany study found that losing a job increased a person’s odds of developing stress-related conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke, by 83 percent. It was also indicated in the same study that blue-collar workers were more likely to get laid off due to health-related issues than white-collar workers.

Housing

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, income has declined as rent continues to rise. Those seeking public housing are often faced with excessively long waits, which means that they must “remain in shelters or inadequate housing arrangements longer.” Impoverished neighborhoods are also more likely to have higher rates of crime, which not only increases stress, but is also an extremely negative environment for children who have no other choice but to live there.

Wage-Garnishing

Over the past decade, there has been a suspiciously rapid increase in wage garnishment by credit card companies and, surprisingly, nonprofit hospitals. NPR reports an “explosion” of cases like these in which hospitals’ debt collection services will sue lower-income patients for failing to cover medical bills. Heartland, for example, has garnished the wages of over 6,000 people between 2009 and 2013, charging the maximum interest rates allowed under state law. More than two thirds of these patients were uninsured.

Food

According to the USDA, nearly 15 percent of U.S. households lacked enough food “for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members.” In many cases, especially in urban areas, not getting enough food isn’t the only problem. Many of these areas are considered food deserts, which are marked by a complete lack of access to fresh produce typically found in traditional grocery stores or markets. Instead, residents of impoverished communities are forced to buy food solely from corner stores or convenience stores, which offer nutrient-deficient foods laden with saturated fat and sugar.

 

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Omidi

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In today’s blog, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses a recent study that finds more than one million elderly Californians are living in poverty.

“The hidden poor” is a term that is used to describe individuals who have incomes above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, but do not earn enough income to make ends meet. Statistically, they may not meet the calculable criteria to be considered below the poverty line, but they are still lacking the resources to escape from under the weight of poverty.

This is a sad and troubling fact, as it often masks the true severity of poverty as a whole. While there are currently more than 300,000 elderly Californians who are officially classified as poor, according to a recent study performed by UCLA, that number may be more than 1 million when “the hidden poor” are taken into account.

The study was performed by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, and it returned some startling findings. According to the National Poverty Guidelines, the poverty line for a single elderly adult living alone is $10,890 a year. However in California, ULCA’s “elder index” puts that number at $23,364.

While the Census Bureau does utilize a “supplemental measure” for determining cost of living, the study suggests that it is not entirely accurate. Officially, California’s poverty rate is close to the national average, but the study proposes that factoring in the “hidden poor” puts California’s poverty rate at 23.4 percent, making it the nation’s highest.

The calculations performed by UCLA take the cost of living into account, and housing in particular. In areas like San Francisco, where residents traditionally have higher incomes but extremely high housing costs, the rates of elder poverty are considerably higher.

Those individuals over the age of 65 who fall into the “hidden poor” category in California tend to be black and Latino. Their greatest concentrations tend to be in smaller, rural counties that have overall lower incomes. The largest concentration is in Imperial County, where 40 percent of the elderly are classified as “hidden poor.”

The study also found that large proportions of the “hidden poor” population include grandparents who are raising grandchildren, elderly parents with adult children who still live at home, and single or widowed elders.

Poverty is a severe and widespread affliction, but studies such as this show us the true depth of the issue. Reformation of our nation’s standards and classifications for poverty, including factors such as accounting for the “hidden poor” is necessary.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Michael Omidi MD

Dr. Michael Omidi MD is an advocate for the health and wellbeing of people and animals, and is the co-founder of No More Poverty

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 20:27

The Criminalization of Poverty

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In today’s entry, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the problem of jailing the poor over their inability to pay fines.

A troubling case earlier this year has called attention to a major societal issue: jailing the poor for failing to pay traffic tickets and other small fines. In January, Missouri resident Edward Brown found his deteriorating home of 25 years condemned by the city, who then sent him a $464 citation for trespassing after he remained in the property. Brown was living off of food stamps and Social Security checks, and was not able to afford to pay the fine—so he has been jailed several times since then.

Issuing arrest warrants for low-level misdemeanor violations has become a shockingly common occurrence in the U.S. as of late. Residents of impoverished communities are finding it increasingly difficult to escape the cycle of poverty under this legislature. Despite local activists’ call for reform over the past decade, no significant changes have been made on a national scale.

One rather unfortunate example is that of Nashville resident Stacey Tuell, who was living out of his car in 2013 and was arrested for a misdemeanor. While in custody, police refused his request to have someone watch his car—which was promptly towed and destroyed by the time he was able to make an attempt to retrieve it. Tuell sued, claiming his constitutional rights were violated, but the case was thrown out.

Many claim that criminalizing the poor is an underhanded way of ensuring a steady stream of city revenue—and at what cost? In May, the National Association of Public Defenders called for the reform of “predatory” criminal court practices in an official statement, some points of which are as follows:

  • Treating fines as civil cases, not criminal cases
  • Providing legal representation to indigent defendants in municipal cases
  • Factoring in a defendant’s income and financial situation before treating nonpayment of a fine as a crime
  • Ending the monetary bond

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Omidi

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 00:00

The Toll on Children Living in Poverty

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Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the horrors faced by children living in poverty.

Poverty takes a heavy toll on those living in it. It is especially cruel on children. Children who live in poverty are at risk both physically and mentally. Today, we'll examine some of the ways poverty hurts children and why it’s so important that we reduce this global atrocity.

Poverty Impairs Their Education

In America, many children who live in poverty are lucky enough to attend schools. This isn't the case for all children throughout the world. Many children are denied an education because they are forced at an early age to work to help support their families.

That said, in America, children living in poverty are disadvantaged when it comes to academic performance. Poverty has been linked to lower gray matter in children. This causes issues with cognitive functions and concentration. This can limit their opportunities later in life.

Poverty Impairs Their Health

Health is another factor that is affected when it comes to living in poverty for children. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, many children didn't have access to health care. Still many children living in poverty are prone to health conditions like asthma and child obesity, among others.

Poverty Leads to Crime

In some cases, children living in poverty can turn to a life of crime. This can range from gang affiliation to sex trafficking. This has been reported in Myanmar where underage girls are driven to sex work.

A new study even places blame on most teenage crime because of teenage poverty. Examining 54,094 homicides, were in large done in high poverty populations. Most of the victimization occurred towards 19 year old people, and then declining from there.

As you can see, poverty has a sweeping degree of implications on the lives of children and teens. It impacts their health, education and safety. All of these can significantly stunt their growth as human beings later in life. It can lead to lower paying jobs, criminal records and death. Poverty needs to be addressed.

Without seeing results, poverty will most likely be cyclical. Those who are born into poverty are more likely to be confined to poverty for their adult life. By creating reforms in policy as well as enhanced efforts with outreach, this can be significantly reduced. Get involved and help stop poverty.

Yours in health,

Michael Omidi

Dr. Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty, a non-profit that works to reduce poverty in America and around the globe.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 19:29

The Problem of Concentrated Poverty

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Dr. Michael Omidi discusses recent findings that define the most concentrated areas of poverty in the U.S.

A 2014 City Observatory analysis by Joe Cortright examines census data over the past several decades in impoverished areas. Findings suggest that as of 2010, 750 urban areas still had a poverty rate twice the national average—out of 1,100 urban census tracts designated as “high poverty” in 1970. These areas are areas in which poverty is concentrated, and apparently has been since the latter half of the previous century. Concentrated poverty areas are neighborhoods in which 40 percent or more of residents fall below the federal poverty threshold.

A recent Century Foundation study also utilized census data as well as the American Community Survey to examine the changes in these areas of concentrated poverty from 1990 to 2013. They found that during this time, the amount of people living in these areas actually doubled—from 7.2 million to 13.8 million.

These findings suggest that environment is extremely influential to one’s likelihood of attaining personal success. Simply put, those in poor neighborhoods will find it much more difficult to get ahead—and vice versa. Cortright says, “It has become commonplace to observe that a person’s life chances can be statistically explained by their ZIP code.” And this observation doesn’t just apply to urban areas; concentrated poverty has been slowly spreading to the suburbs over the past decade.

Paul Jagrowski, author of the Century Foundation study, suggest two methods which he believes will most effectively reverse the growing poverty rates: 1) for the government to “implement controls over suburban development that can ensure that new housing construction is in line with the growth of a metro population,” and 2) that these controls will ensure that houses are being constructed in direct proportion to the population growth.

Yours in health,

Dr. Michael Omidi

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 20:30

As Global Poverty Decreases, China Takes the Lead

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Michael Omidi discusses PEW research that shows a decline in poverty over the past decade.

From 2001 to 2011, nearly 700 million people stepped out from poverty, though many still were barely scraping by. This rise always came with an increase in the global middle class. All of this is from recent PEW research.

According to the research, those considered poor are people living on $2.00 or less a day. The global population in 2001 living in poverty was 29%. That declined to 15% in 2011. While those considered low income, living on $2 to $10 a day, increased from 50% to 56%.

The middle class was classified as people living on $10 to $20 a day, which was 5 times the poverty line used in the study. This of course is within the poverty line of the US, which is living on $15.77 a day for a 4 person household. Researchers feel the $10 threshold globally begins to insulate those from falling back into poverty, based on findings in Latin America. Where in Mexico, Chile and Peru people only have a 10% likeliness of falling into poverty if their per capita incomes is $10.00 a day.

China's growth stood out remarkably. The middle income grew from 3% in 2001 to 15% in 2011. A total of 203 million people passed to the middle income level of $10 a day in that time. China, which accounts for 20% of the world's population, accounted for one-in-two additions to the global middle income population. Far superior than most other countries in Asian and throughout the world. The greater population of Asia combined accounted for the largest growth of middle income compared to other continents.

Only 16% of the world's population lived at the high level of the income scale. Up only 2% from 2001. These were largely people from advanced economies. In the US, median daily income per capita was $56 dollars a day. A total of 88% of the American population lived off of more than $20 a day.

It shows that some progress is being made worldwide. The UN recently announced an initiative to try to eradicate global poverty over the next 15 years. If they are able to accomplish that, it will be a huge success for humanity. The more we are able to create a dialogue on poverty and brain storm solutions, the quicker we can reduce the affects and create a more sustainable future for humanity as a whole.

Yours in health,

Michael Omidi

Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty a nonprofit that advocates of the elimination of poverty throughout the world.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 17:18

Have You Experienced Your Year of Poverty Yet?

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Dr. Michael Omidi discusses the problem of income inequality in the U.S.

According to the last U.S. Census, 45.3 million Americans are officially impoverished. However, research suggests that this number may be somewhat misleading.

Mark Rank, social welfare professor at Washington University, and Thomas Hirschl, development sociology professor at Cornell, recently published a long-term study conducted from 1968 to 2011 which focuses on poverty. Their research has revealed that between the ages of 25 and 60, three out of five Americans will live at least one full year in poverty. That’s not even the most shocking part, either: researchers go on to say that 24.9 percent of the population will experience more than five years of poverty, and 42.1 percent will experience extreme poverty.

Rank also suggests that his and Hirschl’s research “indicate[s] that across the American life course there is a large amount of income volatility.” Out of 27 countries that are considered “high income,” the U.S. ranks 27th in median wealth per adult. We also rank 4th on the scale of severe income inequality in the world, according to World Bank statistics.

Rank claimed that in existing research on the subject, there has been a problematic lack of emphasis on relative poverty rather than absolute poverty. He defines relative poverty as a measure of depravation, whereas most would define poverty from a needs-based standard. For example, someone suffering from absolute poverty does not have enough money to cover basic needs in order to survive. Relative poverty, however, is when someone is poor in the context of those around them.

Current statistics (with the exception of this study) use absolute standards. Many argue that this severely underestimates the amount of people actually living in poverty, as it places impoverished Americans on the same scale as impoverished citizens of third-world countries. And when one considers factors such as the extremely high cost of living in many U.S. cities, it becomes even clearer that income inequality is one of the strongest reasons for growing poverty rates.

Yours in health,

Michael Omidi

Dr. Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty, a nonprofit that advocates to change poverty in America and around the world.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015 20:39

Kids Brains Hurt by Poverty

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Dr. Michael Omidi discusses new research that highlights the true damage poverty causes a child's brain.

Poverty has been widely associated with lower academic performance for children. The longer a child lives in poverty, often the more they fall behind with an academic deficit. A study published on Monday by JAMA Pediatrics wanted to see if there was a correlation between poverty and lower academic performance because of atypical patterns of structural brain development. The results are startling.

The researchers studied magnetic resonance imaging scans of developing children and adolescents age 4 to 22 years of age. In total, they looked at 829 images. These tests included all socioeconomic data and neuroimaging data. Collection of the data occurred from 2001 to 2007. Recruiting was held at 6 data sites across the U.S. and participants were assessed for any factors that may adversely impact brain development. One quarter of the sample reported to be living 200% under the federal poverty line.

The researchers found that poverty was tied to structural differences in several areas of the brain that account for academic performance. For some, the difference in gray matter in the brain was a difference of 8 to 10%. These differences accounted for the children's academic difficulties.

The researchers concluded that the effect of poverty on learning was mediated by the differences in the structures of the children's brains. They suggested for those living 150% below the federal poverty line, extra resources should be targeted during early childhood to help remediate the early childhood environment. For a family of four, the federal poverty line is earning an income below $24,000.

This research shows that those living in poverty have large gaps to overcome that are structural in the brain. If they aren't given the proper resources, they will most likely have a difficulty advancing academically and into a higher earning career later in life. These children must be targeted to ensure they get additional resources need to advance in life. If not, poverty will continue to be perpetual in nature, and remain an ongoing problem.

Yours in health,

Michael Omidi

Dr. Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty, a nonprofit that advocates to change poverty in America and around the world.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015 17:57

20 Percent of US Children Living in Poverty

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Dr. Michael Omidi discusses recent PEW research that analyzes the rate of child poverty in America.

According to the PEW Research Center, a total of 20% of children in America were living in poverty in 2013. That is roughly 14.7 million children. This number is down from 16.3 million children in 2010, which represented a rate of 22% of American children. Unfortunately, these numbers are still too high and unevenly distributed between different racial backgrounds.

Asian children had the lowest number who were living in poverty in the US according to the research. They had half a million or so children living in poverty. The data was pulled from US Census' “Income and Poverty in the United States.”

For the first time since the census began, white and black children had near equal numbers of children living in poverty. There are roughly 4.1 million black children living in poverty and 4.3 million white children living in poverty. This comes out to be about 2 out of every 5 black children who are living in poverty.

Out of all demographics living in poverty, children are sadly the highest group living in poverty. This is largely in part because they are unable to fend for themselves, and require care from a parent or guardian. Children are considered to be those 18 years of age and younger.

The population fairing worst is the children in the Hispanic community. In total, 5.3 million Hispanic children were living in poverty in 2013. The Hispanic community has seen a rise in child poverty over the past decade.

It is saddening to see that nearly a quarter of American children have to endure the hardships of poverty. They are helpless and forced to live in less desirable circumstances where some of their basic necessities aren't being met. We must do more as a country for our nation’s children. Through supporting charitable organizations, volunteering and reaching out to your elected officials, you can try to make a greater impact in order to allow these children a brighter future.

Yours in health,

Michael Omidi

Dr. Michael Omidi is the co-founder of No More Poverty, a nonprofit that advocates for the elimination of poverty throughout the US and around the world.
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