Health Care Poverty
Living in poverty is one of the primary obstacles to accessing health care. The financial relationship between income and proper health care is often linear: the more money an individual has, the better care they will receive. Poor health, however, is also a major cause of poverty. This is partly due to the costs of receiving care but also other costs such as transport, informal payments to providers and loss of income. Here are three books to read to learn more about the relationship between poverty and health care inequalities.

3 Books Explaining the Relationship Between Health Care and Poverty

  1. “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates: In Melinda Gates’ book, “The Moment of Lift,” she emphasizes the key point that lifting a society is contingent on investing in women. Gates explores an array of topics from health care poverty to unpaid work and concludes that for a society to grow and flourish, women must also be empowered. From her experience abroad documenting and comparing the lives of women around the globe to her own experiences as a mother, Gates tackles heavy topics such as sexism, domestic violence and sexual assault. Gates writes, “It’s especially galling that some of the people who want to cut funding for contraception cite morality. In my view, there is no morality without empathy, and there is certainly no empathy in this policy. Morality is loving your neighbor as yourself, which comes from seeing your neighbor as yourself, which means trying to ease your neighbors’ burdens — not add to them.”
  2. “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World” by Tracy Kidder: “Mountains Beyond Mountains” is a beautifully written biography about Dr. Paul Edward Farmer, a man set on dedicating his life to treating the world’s poorest people. Dr. Farmer, an empathetic, self-assured and brilliant doctor opens Kidder’s eyes to the world of health care poverty. The book tells tales of both immense triumphs, but also incredible losses. In exploring the effects of health care stigma, manipulation and inequality around the world Kidder exposes the harsh realities of the world. Dr. Farmer stresses the importance of doing everything possible for every patient, noting that the way some deem certain groups expendable is the source of many of the world’s problems. Kidder writes, “Some people said that medicine addresses only the symptoms of poverty.”
  3. “An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century” by James Orbinski: Written by the former president of Medicins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors without Borders, Dr. James Orbinski expands on the humanitarian efforts made in order to improve global health. The story follows Dr. Orbinski as he works in various disease outbreaks, conflict zones and extreme poverty to fight for universal health care. He travels to Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Peru, Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan and Zaire, with the goal of impacting as many lives as possible. The book exposes the harsh realities of the developing world and is not for the light-hearted. Writing about his time in Somalia, Dr. Orbinski revealed the brutal nature of his travels by stating, “I couldn’t sleep that night. There were three doctors in the entire Baidoa region, and thousands of people still dying.”

These three books clearly indicate the correlation between poverty and limited access to health care. These books help highlight potential solutions for those living in poverty who need to access quality health care.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr