There’s something about poverty. When you look at research in any area, mental health, physical health, food, housing, education, any of the determinants of health really, poverty comes up as a crucial factor. In all cases, poverty seems to exacerbate those things that negatively effect our well-being. There’s something about poverty that seems to suggest that it is the root challenge to making our society as a whole healthier and more equitable.
The National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy uses the concept of the escalator to describe the impact of poverty and the role of policy. “Poverty is like having to go up a down escalator. Instead of trying so hard to help us go up escalators that are going down, just fix the escalators.” This speaks to the importance of policy refinement rather than just making more comprehensive social support systems.
The other important aspect of this metaphor is that there is also an up escalator. So, in the construction of our society, we have created the inevitability of the growing divide between the rich and the poor. And, this is not just economically, but is in terms of health and well-being as well. The richer aren’t just getting richer, they are also getting healthier, while he poor get sicker.
We need to fix the escalators. Our society should be structured so that those in poverty are naturally pushed into a better situation.