Disease and Poverty
Disease and Poverty
ON JANUARY 6, 1941, amid the roar of the guns of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced, "In the future days, we look forward to a world founded upon four essentials of freedoms, including freedom from want."
This became the major theme in the postwar era. Subsequently, the elimination of poverty became an international issue. However, in reality, only the affluent countries became active participants of eradicating poverty, although in the developing world, despite a major concern, several policy decisions were soon to be based on an international recognition of the "ills" of poverty.
In attempting to define poverty as a concept, thus, there have been diverse opinions on what constitutes it. With continuing debates over its exact parameters, it is now seen as neither an economic problem nor a social problem. Instead, it represents a "multifaceted concept with social,political, cultural, and demographic dimensions. It is a condition as well as a process." By this definition, poverty cannot be viewed as a natural process. If one is assumed to be born in poverty, it poses limits on the voluntary nature of the condition. Surely, there is a difference in the way poverty is defined and perceived by the society at large-affluent societies may tend to view it more in absolute rather than in relative terms than the not-so-affluent ones.
Irrespective of the nature of the concept, and the variations in its perception, one thing is certain-that is, there is a direct correlation between poverty and living conditions that may be reflected in the age group of people afflicted by it. High infant and child mortality, for instance, could be a result of exposure to unhealthy environmental conditions. As an example, research in Egypt proves that the child mortality risk is nearly three times as great in the lowest social class compared with the highest class.
The most visible effects of poverty are on infant and child health. No doubt, there is a direct relationship between poor living conditions of poverty and high infant and child mortality. Living conditions expose children to diseases, and increase child mortality. Another effect of poverty, as the available evidence suggests, is child labor. This is one way of combating the need for basic resources. For it ensures, at least for poverty-stricken people, money that eventually would come into the individual family unit. Thus, children are sent to work in small- and large-scale industrial units. Ironically, while this may provide financial resource, it also exposes them to occupational health hazards with no means of protection. In all of this, the cycle of poverty-work-ill health-continued poverty continues unabated. In contrast, the high infant mortality is also related to urban lifestyle. Thus, a series of epidemiological studies conducted by Arthur Newsholme, the medical officer of health of Brighton from...