Healthify Blog

Poverty's Weight on Health in Freddie Gray's Neighborhood

Nearly a year after Freddie Gray died in police custody in Baltimore, his neighborhood continues to struggle with poverty and its negative impact on health. 
In a series published last month by Kaiser Health News and Capital News Service, that struggle was highlighted through stats such as the following:
  •  The average resident living in Gray's neighborhood of Sandtown Winchester in Baltimore lives to be 69.7 years old -- a decade less than the average American and the same as life expectancy in impoverished North Korea.
  • Lead paint violations like the kind that allegedly poisoned Gray are nearly four times higher in Sandtown than in Baltimore as a whole.
  • Two out of ten babies born in Sandtown in 2013 were underweight, the highest percentage in any of Baltimore’s 55 neighborhoods.
Doctors working for Total Health Care, a Baltimore nonprofit whose mission is to provide quality care to the low-income, medically underserved population, painted an equally grim picture of the challenges facing their patients.
Dr. Janice Stevenson, a staff psychologist and vice president, told CNS that up to 60 percent of Total Health Care’s patients are so poor they live a subsistence, survival-based existence.
Another doctor said that hypertension and diabetes -- and deaths stemming from complications of those diseases -- occur at much younger ages in their patients than people in affluent communities.
Furthermore, patients get help at very late stages in their illnesses, which often could've been prevented if they had gotten help earlier, a third doctor told CNS.
Add to that mental health issues due to trauma from street violence: one psychologist with Total Health Care told CNS that “On any given day … any given patient can present with eight to nine recent deaths … in the last six months."
The poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore and the poor health associated with that poverty is likely reflected in poor neighborhoods across the country.
Healthify's goal is to help the underprivileged by efficiently connecting them with social programs that can help them in areas like food and housing.
The hope is that by addressing the social determinants of health in neighborhoods like Freddie Gray's, people can find their way out of poverty and onto the path toward good health. 
Topics: social determinants of health community resources public health