Community forum discusses poor health and poverty

By Brey' Mong-Delane, @BreyMong_DE |[email protected]

Local organizations are working together to end poverty and its consequences in southern Illinois.

The Sparrow Coalition partnered with Imagining Geographies, a university-funded program that focuses on local issues, and the Carbondale Public Library to host “Poor Health: Consequences of Extended Poverty” on Wednesday to discuss potential resources and solutions to health issues those in poverty face.    

30 percent of Jackson County residents were impoverished in 2014, more than double the state average of 14 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. 

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“Many health issues impact the lives of those who live in poverty,” said Angie Bailey, the community benefits manager at Southern Illinois Healthcare. “With a lack of transportation and low income, those living in poverty can’t receive adequate healthcare.” 

Seven of the 11 southernmost Illinois counties, including Jackson County, were issued poverty warnings in an annual report from Heartland Alliance, an organization that works to combat impoverishment. Warnings are given to areas with an above average number of low-income families.

At the forum Bailey and Miriam Link-Mullison, chief administrator for the Jackson County Health Department, presented findings from a Community Health Needs Assessment performed by SIH. 

Cancer, cardiovascular disease and mental health were the most significant health problems among those living in poverty in southern Illinois, according to the assessment.

Bailey said SIH wants to work directly with people to determine what their needs are and how to best serve them.

“This forum is a good way to show [people] they have a health community coalition, and there are people working to improve the health of the community,” she said.

Some efforts have already been made to promote healthy lifestyles among those in poverty. At Carbondale Farmer’s Markets, individuals who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance benefits, a government program for those considered low-income, can participate in the “Double Up Food Bucks” program. For every dollar spent on fruits and vegetables, patrons earn $1 in tokens towards more food.

Peter Lemish, the facilitator of Imagining Geographies, said it is important for people to focus on issues relevant in their areas.

“The community members and speakers are working to raise awareness and discuss the actions we can take to help and advocate for those living in poverty,” he said. 

Brey Mong Delane can be reached at [email protected]

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