Friday, August 19, 2005

Poverty & health care

Yesterday a new report titled "Hospital Care in the 100 Largest Cities and Their Suburbs, 1996-2002: Implications for the Future of the Hospital Safety Net in Metropolitan America" was released by SUNY Downstate and promoted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Press release and link to report here. See page 12 of the report for discussion of the association between hospital utilization/capacity and high poverty rates. This is something that should be of concern to Louisiana. Page 26 identifies the 100 metro areas considered in this Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-sponsored study. Louisiana has three cities considered in the study -- SHV, BTR, & NOLA -- all categorized as "high poverty" communities. The report notes that poverty "is positively correlated with illness and health care need." Not surprisingly, the report makes an explicit connection between poverty, violence, low education levels, low birthweights and unemployment. With some of the nation's highest high school drop out rates, prisoner incarceration rates, child poverty rates and infant mortality rates, it isn't surprising that Louisiana has overall poor indicators of public health placing tremendous pressure on the state charity hospital system. After a while it sounds to start like a broken record, doesn't it? All these issues of public health, education and poverty are interconnected. Failing to address any one of them in an effective way ensures disappointing performance on all indicators of social and economic welfare. And that kind of consistently poor performance doesn't do anybody in Louisiana any good.