Spotlight Exclusives

Poverty May be Worse for Your Health than Smoking

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We all know how bad smoking is for our health. It turns out though that the economic barriers preventing people from entering the middle class may pose an even more serious health hazard.

A Columbia University study released in last month۪s American Journal of Public Health, finds that years of perfect health are reduced within different groups for the average person as follows:

· low-income person loses 8.2 years;

· average smoker loses 6.6 years;

· high school dropout loses 5.1 years; and,

· obese person loses 4.2 years.

The study, is, in part a call to the health profession to engage in those non-medical policies that affect physical well-being such as poverty reduction. The Association of Public Health Schools۪ newsletter notes,

“While public health policy needs to continue its focus on risky health behaviors and obesity, it should redouble its efforts on non-medical factors, such as high school graduation and poverty reduction programs,” according to Dr. Peter Muennig, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study. Specific policies that have proven successful in the past include reduced class size in grades K-3 and earned income tax credit programs, according to Dr. Muennig.

It is worth noting that the Columbia study examined the health of those who live below 200 percent of poverty those considered “low income.” In other words, it isn۪t just those who live below the poverty level whose health is compromised by the lack of income. For OOTS readers, this new research and earlier papers posted on SPOTLIGHT, underscore the need for policy partnerships with public health professionals who understand the need to address the larger struggles faced by low-income families. Is your state public health department, for instance, pressing hard for better high school graduation rates?

Posted by Jodie


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn۪t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and its impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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