'We really need to empower people to navigate the world,'—Len Syme, professor
Friday, March 26, 2010
Link between health and poverty
Research reveals that social status and income level play a crucial role in a person's health.
"People who are poor have the highest rates of nearly every disease we know about," said Len Syme, who grew up in Winnipeg's North End, but is now professor emeritus of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Syme has spent his academic life researching the underlying causes of disease and his conclusion is that health is directly related to your income and social status.
Of two people in the same state of health, but different socio-economic spheres, the wealthier one is less susceptible to disease, according to Syme.
Residents of lower income neighbourhoods have higher mortality rates and higher prevalence of mental and physical illness, according to a 2009 Manitoba RHA Indicators Atlas report.
"The people at the bottom have less resources available to them and less training on how to use resources," said Syme.
According to Syme, teaching people how to cope with life's obstacles and disappointments could be even more important to helping poor people have long-term health.
"Even when you provide people with money, it doesn't really solve the problem," said Syme. "We really need to empower people to navigate the world."
Syme said the tools needed to cope with stress should be taught at a young age.
"If I was in charge tomorrow I would make high-quality preschool education universally available – really challenging children to be the best they can be - even at age 2, 3 and 4," said Syme.
Yet another reason why we need to target poverty. I completely agree with the article that poorer people need more resources on how to cope with life challenges and also helping with mental disorders and illnesses. I do believe that education is key and we need better education for teens and children to help all succeed.