Exploring the link between health care and poverty

The economic framework of the medical care system makes these patterns unlikely to change without new incentives to treat the poor and address overall health. As long as health care is viewed as a commodity and corporate providers see financial success as the main goal, poor neighborhoods will be underserved.

by Lillian Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
June 14, 2014 3:15 p.m.

Richard "Buz" Cooper of New York has practiced medicine for five decades. Recently, he had prostate surgery and reflected on the difference between a recovery in Manhattan, where he lives, and one in Queens.

"I had a catheter," said Cooper, 77. "I'm a doctor so I know about catheters."

He rearranged his bathroom to keep the supplies sterile.

"My bathroom window looks across at Queens," he said. "I was thinking there is some guy in Queens who had the same surgery, who lives in a fourth-floor walk-up that he shares with five unrelated people. They all share the bathroom. He's never used a catheter. He puts the stuff in the bathroom. Some other person pushes it out of the way. He doesn't bother changing his catheter bag. He winds up back at the hospital.

"I had an uneventful recovery. He was back at the hospital with complications."

Cooper has studied the connection between income and health, and like others has come to this conclusion: Poverty makes people sick.