Understanding the Illness-Poverty Relationship
Research is discovering that, when race, ethnicity, and other individual-level factors are controlled for, the daily stress of coping with poverty can, on its own, lead to worse health outcomes for the poor than for those higher on the economic ladder. How can physicians help? Suggesting some answers, this month's issue looks at patient-physician encounters in the free clinic and in the emergency department. The interested physician who offers impoverished patients a long-term therapeutic relationship with a primary care physician provides a service as valuable as high-tech diagnostics and specialty care. The issue explains the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and the Patient Navigator Act of 2005. Other articles give physicians a vocabulary for understanding the the illness-poverty connection and suggest steps they can take to minimize the clinical consequences of being poor in America.