In Peel Region more than 20% of children aged 0 – 5 are living in a family dealing with poverty. Almost 40% of seniors are living in poverty. Almost 15% of it’s population is reported to have a disability and while close to half of those are working, a large amount of those with disabilities are living in poverty.
These statistics are from Peel Region’s website. They are frightening numbers. Two out of every ten children under the age of five are living in poverty conditions. That means when you are standing waiting for the school bus with your children…there are families standing there with you who are hungry, or in need. Four out of every ten seniors has to decide what necessities of life they will choose to get each week while not having the others. People who worked their entire lives and have always been independent, now struggling to be able to survive. Often lonely, scared and tired.
Poverty can affect health in a number of ways. Income provides
the prerequisites for health, such as shelter, food, warmth, and
the ability to participate in society; living in poverty can cause
stress and anxiety which can damage people’s health; and low
income limits peoples’ choices and militates against desirable
changes in behaviour. (Benzeval, Judge, & Whitehead, 1995,
So we know the problem…now we have to find solutions. Rome was not built in a day. So build the NICE program brick by brick and start with helping a few families who walk in the door of the hospital. They need to have a doctor or nurse that is compassionate enough to ask the right questions, to build a rapport with a patient and their family to know if poverty is an issue in their health and life. Then if the Healthcare Provider could offer some help, if they had a NICE (Needed Items for Continued Existence) kit to give that family so they don’t go home cold and hungry. Winter is coming. If we had NICE kits with a blanket and some nutrition to help families get through a rough day or week. To allow someone to go to bed with a full stomach and feeling comfortable rather than trying to ignore the hunger pains and bitter cold. Knowing that we will help them get in touch with resources to help long term. Let them know they are walking out the door with caring support behind them. No one should ever leave the hospital feeling alone, sick, cold or hungry. Compassion is what we do and if they need more from us than we need to find the compassion and dedication to help when there is a desperate need.