January 12, 2009

Health and Wealth

author_karen By Karen Sternheimer

Benjamin Franklin famously said, "Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise"--words that I strive to live by. We bear a great deal of responsibility for our overall health, and getting enough sleep, exercise, and proper diet go a long way towards feeling good.

That said, there are many factors that contribute to our overall health, some beyond our control. Inheriting the right genes helps (or as some say, picking your parents wisely), but other factors affect whether we get sick, and if we do, influence the likelihood that we will recover from illness. One such factor is wealth. Franklin could revise his famous aphorism to say that those who are wealthy have a better shot at being healthy, at least in contemporary America. clip_image002

The December 2008 issue of Self magazine got me thinking about this topic. One article, “Secrets of America's Healthiest Women”, provided a rundown of which cities ranked at the top for prenatal care, cancer occurrence, and a variety of other measures related to health care screenings and treatments. Under each item, the magazine offers readers a chance to “Steal their Secret” and provides suggestions that might be related to the city’s overall health.

For instance, Honolulu, Hawai’i was listed as the city with the least cancer, and their “secret” is their plentiful fish markets. Readers are encouraged to “load up on wild salmon, herring, and halibut.” By contrast, Gary, Indiana was listed as the city with the most cancer. Is their problem too few fish markets?

Possibly, but there are other significant factors that might predict that Gary residents would be sicker than those in Honolulu. Most centrally, 31.6% of Gary residents live below the federal poverty line. In contrast, 8.6% of Honolulu residents live in poverty. Gary’s 2007 homicide rate was 73.2 per 100,000, indicating high levels of violent crime. Honolulu, on the other hand, is one of America’s safest cities, with a murder rate of 2.1 per 100,000 residents in 2007. The stressors of navigating violent communities, coupled with high unemployment (Gary's unemployment rate is 15.5% compared with 4.2% in Honolulu) certainly can interfere with good health, especially if residents have limited access to regular health care.

So should residents of Gary pack up and head to Honolulu? Considering the median income in Gary is $26,725 and median home value $71,700, it is unlikely that many could afford Honolulu's median home price of $604,600. Even trying to follow Self’s advice about eating more seafood might be difficult. Low-income communities are notorious for lacking large grocery stores stocking healthy choices like produce, let alone seafood. Couple that with a limited food budget and fresh fish is a luxury many people in poverty cannot afford.

Other healthy cities listed, like San Jose, California (poverty rate 9.9%) and Seattle, Washington (13.1%) have significantly lower poverty rates than Gary and the clip_image002[5]other cities that frequently topped the “unhealthy” list like Memphis, Tennessee (26.2%) and El Paso, Texas (27.4%). People in the “unhealthy” cities also experience higher rates of racial/ethnic segregation, another factor that is important to consider. Areas with high degrees of segregation often provide fewer basic services like health care for residents. This problem is particularly acute here in Los Angeles, where hospitals in low-income, predominantly black and Latino communities have shut down or drastically reduced services. In an era of budget deficits, this trend is likely to continue.

I enjoy reading Self for the tips on healthy living, which I try and incorporate into my routine whenever possible. Yet the title of the magazine reflects our very individualized notions of health and well-being. Yes, we are responsible for ourselves, but other factors rooted in the social structure shape our health, which can be beyond our control. It is instructive for us to see which cities have the healthiest residents, but we also need to examine what patterns have created these disparities.

My health is partly a result of my behavior and genetics, but also reflects other sociological factors, not the least of which being my socio-economic status (related to my education, the job market, and my family’s socio-economic status). Not only do I have health insurance through my employer, but there are a number of high quality health care providers in my area (my dentist’s office is actually just across the street!). And when I do need medical treatment, my and my family’s experience navigating the health care system provides me with advantages that others might not have. What social factors might enhance or affect your health?

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Comments

great analysis! great for a classroom discussion!

Economic factors could play a part, but I'm pretty sure that the massive levels of industrial pollution in Gary (which smells like a tire fire, even from miles away) are responsible for a good deal of the increased cancer rate there.

This is an interesting article which I agree with because you really do have to look at a lot of factors that could effect ones health and not just the obvious things. For one thing Hawaii is an island which I'm quite sure had a lot less pollution then most states which could negatively impact its inhabitants. There are just too many differences between these examples that it almost seems naive to put them together and say well lets compare them and oh maybe the people in this state are healthier just because of what their eating. The correlation between poverty rates and how healthy the people living in that area makes much more sense. People with less money will tend to buy cheaper food, and what food is the cheapest fast food....which leads to healthy problems if you eat it all the time. So I myself pick up self magazine once in a while but I know you can't really buy into everything they tell you because sometimes I feel like magazines put out articles before really thinking everything through and getting all the facts.

I think that this article was very informative...I am always interested in new ways to prevent cancer and hearing about preventing cancer. I think i might want to move to Honolulu! Pomegranate is also a great antioxidant to prevent cancer. Have you ever heard of Goji Juice? Its supposed to be the new great health juice. Does Self magazine have a variety of different healthcare articles?

The economy has a lot to do with the proverty rate in the United States. I think that this was a very good article about things that are going on. This is also a great way to learn about cancer and hearing products.

I think this article brings up a great point. One's health is determined not only by genetics, but the society you live in as well. It's very interesting seeing the differences in the percentages of people in poverty and how they effect the overall health of people. What is the socio-economic status?

I believe this article shows that there are many factors which relate to how our lives are changed on a day to day basis. One question I would want to ask is to see how these people in Gary came to have such a low standard of living, were they born into it, is it because of the economy?

I think this article is not only about the link between health and income, but also a great example of how many factors can contribute to a social condition. We can not only look at how two things are connected and say they are solely dependent on each other. As said in our sociology book, you need a dependent variable to always be striving for. Along with that, you have to take MANY independent variables to explain that dependent variables.

The article had a lot of interesting points to think about. Their are many variables stated that could affect health besides wealth. Wealth or money does affect health though because of health care, where you live, and the food you buy. Very interesting article!

Karen brings up an interesting topic and great facts behind it. It is very true that the wealthier are usually healthier, because they can afford luxurious foods, vitamins, and what ever else they may buy in order to maintain their health. We all know thay the wealthy also recieve better healthcare, depending on their "status." A good example of a wealthy person recieving better care is a celebrity.
It is sad, yet understandable, that the poorer, unhealthier city has a higher homicide rate. It makes you think about people who act the way they do given their unfortunate, helpless background. It is very sad. Therefore, we see that most people cannot change their sociological factors and it may affect their overall health and well-being.

Education and wealth are going to influence healthy the most. People are so uneducated about health, it's insane! We are sold so much crap that claims, "low fat, non-fat, low sodium, enriched...." and the list goes on and on. What most consumers don't know is that if one thing is taken out, they have to replace it with something else. Also with ingredients like trans fat, cholesterol, saturated fat companies can disguise them. COmpanies can list on the food label that there is 0 grams of something as long as there is .5 or less. So many people think that they're eating healthy, but they're just being fooled by effective advertising. People also aren't aware of the difference in quality of nutrients. Many also neglect exercise completely, which is a HUGE mistake. By exercising regularly you can provide your body with so much more energy and power. A lot of times the jobs of people who are considered to be poor are PHYSICALLY exhausting so they don't take the time to exercise for the purpose of health.

Unhealthy foods are able to be stable for a very long time on the shelf so often times they can be sold for very cheap. This is another reason why money plays such a huge role in health. It is expensive to eat healthy. Unfortunately though, it is kind of a pay me now or pay me later situation. Buying the foods that are cheapest may save you a buck now, but your body needs quality proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Stuffing your body with processed junk clogs your arteries and increases your risk for some kinds of cancers. If you don't take care of your body now, you're going to pay the price for it someday. Money is also very important not only for food, but for proper health care. Usually the jobs of the low income families do not have benefits or healthcare included and if they do, it's probably not very good. Having access to a Dr., medicine, and hospitals is huge, and not everyone can afford it. People can't always afford the necessary means to sustain good health,

"Men will spend their health getting wealth; then gladly pay all they have earned to get health back."- Mike Murdock

This article reminded me of this quote from Mike Murdock. People today will often work themselves either to an early heart attack or sickness because they work too much in order to have the big house or the expensive car. Once they are satisfied with their current state of living, a number of health problems arise leaving ridiculous health bills.

 This is an almost obvious article. The more money you have the more resources you have access to, seems to go hand in hand. Yes, it is true there are other factors you can and can’t control that will affect your overall well being such as genetics, environmental factors, poverty, and lack of resources/education but on the other hand many of the health problems today are a result of self-choices.
I think money is a huge issue for the health problems in the United States today. Yes, the US is a relatively rich nation but the underlying fact that health care is so god damn expensive leaves many people without health care. There are countries around the world that provide health care to citizens. (Sweden will even cover breast implants, to boost their self-esteem. Well, that’s pretty ridiculous) Along with expensive health care, it is hard to find cheap, healthy and fast food; especially at nighttime. Is this due to rationalization?
Along with the expensive aspect of being healthy, is how you were raised. From as far back as I can remember, I was always involved in physical activity such as: basketball, snowboarding, backpacking, field hockey, bicycle rides, swimming or walks to the store. With a strong emphasis in physical activity from my dad, I found myself engaged in recreational activities as a young child leading to sports in high school. Meanwhile, I remember my first gym membership to the YMCA, across the street from Berkeley High. From this point forward my curiosity and enthusiasm in health and well being quickly escalated and has not yet shown any signs of slowing down. I now work at the YMCA in the health and wellness department as the head wellness instructor/a personal trainer and it’s easy for me to see the advantages of healthy living. I know what I need to do in order to be healthy and the only thing I can see strongly affecting my health is an unavoidable issue… “Use it or lose it!”

"Men will spend their health getting wealth; then gladly pay all they have earned to get health back."- Mike Murdock

This article reminded me of this quote from Mike Murdock. People today will often work themselves either to an early heart attack or sickness because they work too much in order to have the big house or the expensive car. Once they are satisfied with their current state of living, a number of health problems arise leaving ridiculous health bills.

 This is an almost obvious article. The more money you have the more resources you have access to, seems to go hand in hand. Yes, it is true there are other factors you can and can’t control that will affect your overall well being such as genetics, environmental factors, poverty, and lack of resources/education but on the other hand many of the health problems today are a result of self-choices.
I think money is a huge issue for the health problems in the United States today. Yes, the US is a relatively rich nation but the underlying fact that health care is so god damn expensive leaves many people without health care. There are countries around the world that provide health care to citizens. (Sweden will even cover breast implants, to boost their self-esteem. Well, that’s pretty ridiculous) Along with expensive health care, it is hard to find cheap, healthy and fast food; especially at nighttime. Is this due to rationalization?
Along with the expensive aspect of being healthy, is how you were raised. From as far back as I can remember, I was always involved in physical activity such as: basketball, snowboarding, backpacking, field hockey, bicycle rides, swimming or walks to the store. With a strong emphasis in physical activity from my dad, I found myself engaged in recreational activities as a young child leading to sports in high school. Meanwhile, I remember my first gym membership to the YMCA, across the street from Berkeley High. From this point forward my curiosity and enthusiasm in health and well being quickly escalated and has not yet shown any signs of slowing down. I now work at the YMCA in the health and wellness department as the head wellness instructor/a personal trainer and it’s easy for me to see the advantages of healthy living. I know what I need to do in order to be healthy and the only thing I can see strongly affecting my health is an unavoidable issue… “Use it or lose it!”

The previous article, Health and Wealth, by Karen Sternheimer, published January 12, 2009, is quite accurate, and poses a good question for the reader, what social factors might enhance or affect your health? Starting with the idea that we are all in charge of ourselves, on a daily and both personal and communal basis, I believe we have the potential to better ourselves. By choosing healthier choices and offering healthier alternatives, health despite wealth is possible. Despite the fact that we are all born with genes we did not choose, I trust that we really do have the potential to change ourselves for the better just by looking for the better option. For instance, even someone who has to incorporate fast-food into their diet due to financial strains, could in fact at times order a filet-o-fish instead of a double double, or a bean and cheese burrito instead of carnitas which have been cooked in massive amounts of oil combined with the fact that it’s pork! Social factors that may enhance or diminish your ability to improve your health, as Sternheimer suggested, does have to do with financial aids you have within reach. Lower income people, of course have to be choosy and conscience of where they are spending their money, while higher income people might not take into consideration their $100.00 grocery bill (and buy ‘junk’ food on purpose because they can afford it?). The idea that wealthier people have an advantage to health care more so than low income people is true. No matter what anyone says, hospitals in higher classed neighborhoods are better staffed, better supplied, and in general, are cleaner. I know this because I was born in San Diego, and have always gone to fairly great hospitals. When I was younger and my family was visiting other family in Los Angeles, we got into a car crash.. in a rush the ambulance took my cousin to the central hospital and the rest of us were told to meet him there. When we stepped into the ER of that hospital I remember seeing large amounts of people walking in and out of doors, children screaming, and waiting chairs filled. What stood out the most to me, and eight year old at that time, was the pungent smell of blood, either dry or wet...but the stench of blood. I couldn’t understand why any person in the medical field would take someone who’s suffering to this hospital. It was the first hospital I have until this day, ever walked into and didn’t think I was going to get healthy. How could a patient become healthy in a hospital that itself was clearly sick. A quote from Sternheimer I’d like to use right now, “The stressors of navigating violent communities, coupled with high.... certainly can interfere with good health, especially if residents have limited access to regular health care” sticks out. Has it ever occurred to politicians who run the communities that people might turn violent if not cared for? That, coupled with daily hostilities thrown at them, inaccessibility to regular standard health care is just the icing on the cake? It might not make sense to some, but if you really think about it, and put two and two together, the causes and solutions are appear.
Continuing and concluding on one final instance, I know a woman who has birthed three children. This woman was born in Tijuana, Mexico. Now, according to most, even my mother, the friend of the woman in instance, says that Mexico water is polluted and to always ask for bottled water. Whether this constant public opinion is a positive or negative one, I am not sure. Though what I do know is that this mother of three has drank Tijuana water all of her life, and has never once became sick. Also, her children have never become severely sick. The family now lives in southern California, and is prosperous. So what of the statistics pointing to lower income, lower health?
As stated before, it is my belief anyone can change their standard of living. Wherever you were born, in whatever physical state you were born in, there is always room for at least a little improvement. It is important to not let the assumed ways of living stick to your heart and poison your soul. YOU have the power to better YOUR hospitals, to better your COMMUNITY, and suggest better qualities for others by simply advocating. Think healthy, best wishes..

Health is the greatest wealth and there could be no two ways about it.This is a good read here about good health.Let us try and make this earth a healthier place to live in.

Since you have discussed sleep and mentioned about early to bed...what if the nature of work pattern is opposite and one has to sleep in the daytime and work at night?

When I clicked on this link to food and health I was expecting articles on eating right and how America is or is not performing healthy eating habits, what I got was this extensive article explaining the many other factors that contribute to society’s overall well-being. I chose this because of it’s surprising evaluations of the factors that affect our societies health. As the Benjamin Franklin so eloquently put it, "Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Upon first reading this quote the extent of my knowledge was that he meant a lot of sleep can really do a person good, yet I constantly became stuck on the wealthy part. Wealthy from what? Wealthy in health, wealthy in strength? Perhaps if he had read this article then he would be referring to the fact that you wouldn’t have to pay for health insurance. This author points out a very important issure,so many people in our world live in poverty and therefore have no access to any basic health care. We who are not affected by this shortage often take for granted what we have readily available to us. Some people are even lucky enough to have health insurance through their jobs and numerous other health benefits.
Racial and ethnic segregation is also included in the author’s list of what is affecting our health today. To the naked eye this may not seem like a health depressant at first, but when viewed closer can cause major damage. The people affected not only become segregated from our society, but from the health benefits our society can offer, more often than not the low income hospitals there will simply close off or significantly reduce the services available to them and thus there health is severely affected. For me, I’ve lived above the poverty level my whole life and I have never been affected negatively by my culture or ethnicity, so I rarely am able to see the perspective of those who are affected. It’s articles like this that really make me open my eye’s to what’s really going on in our world, and take notice.
There are so many different factors that can go into our health and wellness. Yet the theories of nature and nurture attempt to clarify these aspects of society. Nature tells us that genetics play a huge part in how health we are, so choosing the right parents is important right? However, other non-internalized factors such as poverty, crime rates, and segregation are noted as contributing factors to a person’s overall wellness, suggesting that healthfulness is more so learned than acquired through genes. However, I believe there is a lot more responsibility on the parents then this author leads us to believe. I wondered why she didn’t go into more depth about prenatal care, as this is essential to any developing baby’s health and wellness. It all starts with the parents, because it is so important so introduce children to proper dietary habits early so that they might carry such habits on later in life. What every the mother eats, the baby eats. What every the mother does, the baby does right there with her. For example, if the mother is not exercising of eating right, her baby could form sever mental or physical incapacities that will severely affect them later in life.
I am really glad Sternheimer presented this article to the public as it shows there are many factors that contribute to a person’s overall health—some that we may be unaware of or unable to control so its important to really pay attention and never take for granted what we have

I feel this greatly related to my present life in college with how sociological factors contribute and make a difference in my overall health.
The way in which it is relative to my scenario is the change in my health now from before when I lived at home. I still exercise regularly, get a proper amount of sleep, and try my hardest to consume a healthy diet. But sometimes, eating properly gets hard because of the need to conserve money, and the fact that my roommates do not eat very healthy does not help either.
What happens that I feel is a sociological issue rather than something I have control over is my older roommates go out and buy food to split so it is very difficult to eat healthy meals every day when there is so much junk food lying around. This is different than how some cities do not supply all the foods necessary to keep people’s bodies well nourished, yet in some aspects it relates because I am somewhat being cut off from getting all the healthy foods I need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is not my decision to have all these foods out of reach instead of right in front of me like I would normally have at home, which is not necessarily my fault, a factor in this is society and how in college students tend to buy cheaper foods which usually end up being more unhealthy.

This article took my interest because I am a kinesiology major specializing in health, fitness, and nutrition. Diet is such an important aspect in many parts of our lives, from how we feel to how we function, to even what moods we are in. Though the poor don’t have good health care to deal with any sicknesses that arise, often times they don’t have adequate nutrition to begin with. Meats are more expensive than soups and other cheaper meal choices, so many times the underprivileged are not eating balanced healthy meals simply because they cannot afford them. Also, some of the people under the poverty line may be working long hours just to sustain where they are and may not have the time when they get home to prepare a healthy meal for themselves and their family.
Or perhaps these people would like to eat better, but do you know of any farmer’s market in Compton? Many healthy foods are just not present in downtrodden areas. For us in Santa Barbara, we don’t have to worry about eating healthy; there is Farmer’s Market and many fresh produce stores as well as health food stores everywhere you look. And if you’ve ever entered a Lazy Acres before, or any other health food store, you’ll realize that not only are some of the prices a little above normal, but some are just ridiculous, (as I learned this past week that ‘healthy’ mayonnaise can costs $18!).
With 3 billion people struggling in the world today to survive off $2 dollars a day, it should come as no surprise that one in twelve people worldwide is malnourished. Many people have more to worry about than eating healthy; when the next time they will eat is enough for them to worry about. So in my opinion, a person’s socio-economic status has a much greater impact on their health than then they personally do. There is a defining relationship between wealth and health.

This article was very interesting, things I would have never thought about were discussed. I've always had access to health care, whenever I was sick I would go to the doctor and get treated. My refridgerator always stocked with goods(whether or not I always eat the best things :) Its interesting to see that where a person lives can effect their health and diet. It makes sense though that people who are below the poverty line don't have as much access, or money, for things such as health care or buying fish from the store. Even myself growing up in a middle class home, fish wasn't something we had all the time on account of it being more expensive.

I do not find the strong correlation between wealth and health to be surprising at all. In fact, in my free time I have been doing plenty of research lately regarding the healthiest parts of the country (I am majoring in nursing at the University of North Flordia, so I'm really into this stuff). Magazines like Men's health (one of my favorites to read)rank the U.S cities that are the healthiest for both men and women, but regardless of gender, the same principle applies: those cities located in high-poverty, working-class states (Ohio, Louisiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and the Carolinas) scored at the bottom of the "health list", whereas those at the top were located in the wealthier Western and New England states. With more financial resources, you can afford more health insurance, better doctors, healthier restaurants (fast food restaurants are cheaper) and more exercise equipment. And yes, sociology can play a role - how you interact with others can affect, for instance, your eating habits, sleeping habits, and whether or not you smoke cigarettes.

“Don’t Worry - be happy,” a common Jamaican saying, and words I strive to live by today. My personal health experience has been diverse; geographically, socio economically, and culturally. I live in an affluent city. Native to Santa Barbara, CA with a median home price around half a million, set at the ocean, mountains and with an abundance of local organic farming; truly the setting for a healthy life. In spite of my family’s socio-economic status; middle to below poverty, we still have access to good quality food, water, air and health care. Local clinics offer sliding fee scales to low-income patients. I guess you would say I have cultural collateral.
Being married to a Jamaican man influenced me greatly. There was a time when I thought I was relatively deprived because my husband only liked to shop for groceries daily or every other day; it felt to me like the cupboards were bare. I came to learn a different way of life, one that is more focused on living in the now. We shopped only for what we need for today. The food was vegetarian, organic, and always freshly prepared. I came to really appreciate this way of daily living. I enjoyed our time shopping and cooking together. We also sought alternative medicine, which did not always require a doctor visit.
Later when we divorced, I found that on my own I did have the support to continue this way of life. I felt pressured by societal demands to work, and go to school with two children and very low income, to conform. Eventually, I reverted to the all American diet. In spite of my knowledge; I became a fan of McDonalds. I moved to the city and worked like a dog. My health and family suffered. After 5 years I concluded to return to my home, where I would benefit from my cultural collateral and a healthy lifestyle. Due to my income level, I paid a reasonable cash fee at the neighborhood clinic for my annual physical, since I gave up insurance in the city. I am so happy to be home!!! This summer I plan to learn how to surf!!

People should have fish on every meal. Now we know that this is hawaii's secret why their people doesn't have too much cancer victims. Thanks for sharing this very informative article.

It makes perfect sense. Perhaps they could also do the same research for people who lives beside the beach and not just people in Hawaii.

Nutritious food is one of the driving forces for a good health. Prevention is better than cure to achieve to achieve success in wellness and health.

I guess you would say I have cultural collateral.
Being married to a Jamaican man influenced me greatly.


some social factors that are associated with health are education, job market, and family. I found that Honolulu is the state capital and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Hawaii. It is the county seat of the City and County of Honolulu.

You are a great on health write. I read your article carefully and i have a same one blog.

This is a really good and informative blog, helped me really much.

Great post. I definitely agree that having some wealth to start off with definitely gives you an almost unfair advantage.

One of the factors that affect my health is distance to the health care provider. The other one, as many of us have as well, is cost.

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