Poverty and health status: Exploring the links

In the last few years the statistics on poverty in Nigeria can be best described as damning.

The level of poverty in Nigeria  was recently described as multi-dimensional and it’s a huge moral burden on the political class.

Perhaps what makes it more frustrating is the much touted economic potential of Nigeria which seems to remain just potential.

Many health policy observers have described healthcare intervention as capable of having impact beyond social but also economic.

Any investment in the health of the populace definitely improves the availability and efficiency of the workforce needed for economic growth.

Poverty and health have a significant relationship.

This is why an improvement in economic fortunes favours improved health, health seeking behaviour and vice versa.

Here are a few traceable links;

1. Nutrition

Individuals who live in extreme poverty hardly have enough to feed well.

They are malnourished and that makes them even more prone to falling ill due to reduced immunity.

This affects the children more with the added disadvantage of affecting development of cognitive function.

Good nutrition in the first three years of life is so vital.

The much touted school feeding program is likely to produce a sub par impact.

This is because the first 1000 days of life which are vital are already missed before this children enroll in schools.

2. Housing

Persons living in extreme poverty usually live in crowded and shanty parts of town with poor sanitary condition.

They lack access to potable drinking water and good toilet facilities and so are prone to infections.

On coming down with these diseases they still lack access to quality healthcare services.

People living in poverty live in poorly built and crowded houses which makes it easier for transmission of infectious diseases like tuberculosis

3. Financial means

They might be forced to use whatever is available in form of traditional medicine for treatment and only go to the hospital as a last resort.

Sometimes the means of getting to the nearest hospital is hardly available.

If they get there they have to pay directly from their pockets because of the absence of an effective social health insurance package.

All this contributes to keeping them in the cycle of poverty.

4. Poor literacy rates

It’s important to note that low literacy rates among the poor makes them more unlikely to seek access to birth control/child spacing services.

In the end they give birth to a lot more children making it more difficult to escape the poverty trap.

In conclusion,

The failure of primary healthcare in Nigeria which would have been a safety net for the poorest in our local communities is a sad reality.

It is most responsible for the disgraceful maternal and child health statistics we have as well as the huge burden of infectious diseases.

Remedying this should be a priority of government at all Levels.

The only way to address poverty is to create wealth.

This is impossible without massive investment in human capital (education), critical infrastructure.

Government needs to float the right economic policies.

Policies that ensure a productive economy that creates jobs and ensures a fair distribution of wealth.


Olusanya Oluwatomi is an Intern Pharmacist at Federal Medical Centre Keffi

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