Why should I care?
Poverty and poor health go hand-in hand. In fact, a recent study1 found a life expectancy gap of more than 10 years between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the poorest 1 percent, with that gap increasing over time. Here is a snapshot of how poor Americans' health suffers more than that of wealthier Americans:
|CDC, Health, United States2
||Living at 400% or more of poverty
||Living below 100% of poverty
|No usual source of health care, adults ages 18-64
|Have had colorectal tests or procedures, adults ages 50-75
|Women ages 40+ who had a mammogram
|Adults 18+ with 2-3 chronic conditions
|Serious psychological distress in prior 30 days, adults 18+
|Disability among adults 18+
If we want to close the nation's health gap, we must also close the income gap. Fortunately, there are a variety of policy solutions:
- Raise the minimum wage for U.S. workers and families. If Congress raised the minimum hourly wage to $10.10, 25 million U.S. workers would benefit and 5 million to 6 million Americans would be lifted out of poverty.3 By earning a livable wage, these Americans could afford better health care, healthier food options and safer living conditions for their families. Also, higher wages have been linked to fewer premature deaths4 and reduced infant mortality.5
- Protect and strengthen safety net programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that help millions of American families meet their most basic needs. Social issues like poverty, education and housing are closely intertwined with access to health care and have a direct effect on people’s health, opportunity and productivity. However, the U.S. spends less on social safety net programs than other countries — all of which experience longer life expectancies than us.6 Strong social support programs level the playing field and allow all children a real opportunity to reach the social, educational and economic milestones that often result in longer, healthier lives.
What can I do?
Tell Congress to support paid sick leave and family leave for all workers. Not allowing workers to take time off when they’re sick can have serious consequences for public health, including the unnecessary spread of disease. Workers without paid sick leave are faced with a difficult decision every time they or a loved one are sick — stay home to recover or take care of a sick child or go to work because they can't afford a smaller paycheck? Today, more than 41 million7 U.S. workers have no access to a single day of paid sick leave, forcing them to compromise their health and the health of their communities. This is despite the fact that researchers have found8 paid sick leave ordinances to have little to no effect on business.
Take action here if you agree that it’s time to move forward with a national law to ensure all working people in the U.S. can earn paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act would give workers more flexibility in taking care of themselves and their families!
1 The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States
2 CDC: Health, United States, 2015
3 Oxfam America, Working Poor in America
4 American Journal of Public Health
5 American Journal of Public Health
6 The Commonwealth Fund: Issues in International Health Policy
7 National Partnership for Women & Families
8 Center for Economic and Policy Research