Sammy has had a steady job for the past 6 months. Despite being a hard-worker, if an unexpected expense comes up, such as a surprise medical bill or if her fridge breaks, she will be unable to cope. Poverty isn’t limited to starvation and homelessness. Many in well-developed countries are at risk of poverty.
In Malta in 2018 over 82,000 people were at-risk-of-poverty (ARP). Their income was below €9,212. Poverty is an important social issue highlighting economic inequalities and issues with social care and employment. Once people fall below the poverty line it is immensely difficult for them to climb back out of it. It also leads to the “cycle of poverty,” a vicious spiral of poverty passing from one generation to the next. Poverty very often prevents children from gaining a proper education, which makes it harder for them to find well-paid employment in the future. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty. However, poverty is not only a financial concern, it also leads to a host of other issues.
Health is currently the world’s hottest topic. Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor health. Poverty can lead to health risks for many reasons. People might be unable to afford healthcare while others might choose work which puts their health at risk. A healthy diet and lifestyle can be difficult to maintain when people work multiple jobs to make ends meet or if it is out of their budget. Poor health can make it difficult for individuals to find employment, which only serves to maintain the cycle of poverty.
Health practitioners dedicate themselves to safeguarding the health of their patients. The World Health Organization defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. This definition emphasises a patient’s social context, their psychological well-being (including their thoughts, beliefs and emotions), as well as the biological and physiological processes of an illness. Social support services and policies also need to address all these parts to help.
The above attitude to healthcare needs to start from the beginning of one’s medical career, that is why the Standing Committee of Human Rights and Peace (SCORP), within the Malta Medical Students’ Association, strongly believes in instilling these values in its student members.
SCORP actively promotes human rights and peace through advocacy, capacity building, awareness, and education, with the aim of empowering others to advocate for justice and equity in our health system and society. In order to ensure that human rights, especially the right to health, apply to all humans and not just the majority.
At THINK we believe in this vision, and want to do our part to bring it one step closer to reality. Poverty and health collide together every day, changing the world for the better, which means disentangling the two — one issue at a time.
Constitution. Who.int. (2020). Retrieved 16 October 2020, from https://www.who.int/about/who-we-are/constitution#:~:text=Health%20is%20a%20state%20of,belief%2C%20economic%20or%20social%20condition.
cycle of poverty. Oxford Reference. Retrieved 16 October 2020, from https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095655738.National Statistics Office. (2019). EU-SILC 2018: Salient Indicators. Valletta.