According to the AMA, many Americans, including full-time workers, cannot afford the essentials they need to stay healthy.
Research has shown that income inequality is associated with increased risk of mental illness, shorter life expectancy, obesity, homicide, higher infant mortality rates and more, the AMA said. Another study found that policies that increase the incomes of the poor improve both health and the economy.
“Put simply, reducing poverty improves health,” David H. Aizuss, MD trustee of the AMA, the report said. “Too many people work full-time — sometimes in more than one job — and fail to rise above the poverty line. This must change.”
Poverty exacerbates health inequalities as women and those from racial and ethnic backgrounds are more likely to earn lower wages than men and whites, the report said. In particular, blacks and Hispanics are “disproportionately represented among minimum wage workers,” the report said.
The AMA adopted a policy during its annual meeting of its House of Delegates that advocates efforts to adjust the level of the minimum wage to keep up with inflation. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, which equates to $15,080 a year. According to the AMA, a single parent working full-time at the federal minimum wage cannot support a child above the federal poverty line, even though in 1968 the minimum wage was enough to keep a family of three out of poverty.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a simultaneous public health and economic crisis that has exposed and exacerbated access to health care and other social injustices,” Aizuss said in a press release. “Not only has the pandemic disproportionately impacted minorities and marginalized communities, but economic instability, housing and food insecurity have disproportionately burdened communities of color and other historically marginalized populations—all of which underscore the fact that low-income people are in poorer health with sheer relief. . outcomes”.