Note: It is our goal at One Martin to provide reliable, fact-based information so citizens can be better informed about our government and our community.
Below is a guest column from House of Hope CEO, Rob Ranieri.
At the Crossroads of Poverty and Health
I want to start by offering my sincere thanks to One Martin for allowing House of Hope the opportunity to participate in their newsletter as a guest columnist. For those readers who may not be familiar with House of Hope, our mission is to empower Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. We focus our efforts on basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) and life skills (health &nutrition, education, job skills). Currently, we are reaching about 7,000 people each month with programs and services. To learn more about us, please visit our website at www.hohmartin.org
A quick Google search on the topic of poverty and health will reveal pages of information. We know that an undeniable link exists between the two. Poverty creates a barrier of access to important resources such as physical and mental health support, education and transportation. In Martin County, in our lower income communities, we see higher than normal rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other chronic health conditions. In addition, infant mortality rates are higher and lifespans are shorter among those living in poverty.
When discussing poverty and related chronic diseases, people often find it incongruent to include obesity on the list. But consider the high cost of eating healthy, as well as the scarcity of easy access to fresh produce in most lower income neighborhoods. Additionally, the least expensive foods are generally high in calories and high in fat, and unlike fresh produce, fast food is prevalent in those same lower income neighborhoods. This is just one simple illustration of the link between poverty and health.
So in Martin County, how do we improve health in our lower income communities, and then ultimately lessen the grip of poverty, especially generational poverty, over families and neighborhoods? In a word, collaboration. No one agency, whether government, non-profit or for-profit, can accomplish this monumental task alone. Although there are many factors that make Martin County a great place to live, one that is often overlooked on most lists, and in my opinion is the most important, is the incredible network of strong non-profit organizations, and their willingness to work together, pool resources, and problem solve to improve our quality of life. Adding to this collaborative spirit, local government agencies, for-profit business partners, and engaged and generous funders and philanthropists provide critical support and strategic planning.
As the wealth gap between lower income and upper income earners continues to widen, and basic costs for needs such as rent, groceries, transportation and healthcare continue to rise, these collaborations will become more important than ever before. The average citizen may not be aware of the close working relationships between County and City governments, our Health Department, non-profit agencies, the funding community and local businesses. Together we create programmatic solutions, bring support directly into lower income communities to overcome the obstacles of transportation and access, and build meaningful relationships with our neighbors who need support. These partnerships provide services for our challenged community members from prenatal to senior citizens, and everyone in between.
How might you help? Certainly non-profits always need financial support. But we also need your time and talent. Volunteer at your favorite organization. If you do not have one, pick an area that you are passionate about such as food support, mental health, physical health, youth development, education, the environment, job skills training or any other, and find the local leading agency that aligns with what excites you. If you are not sure how to find your place, reach out to the United Way of Martin County and ask for their guidance.
If you are reading this and you need services and assistance or know someone who does, please reach out to House of Hope and we will do our best to help you directly or refer you to our vast network of partner agencies to offer support and solutions.
Together we can improve the health and well-being of our community. At House of Hope, we often say that healthy children are better learners, and healthy adults are better earners. We all stand at the crossroads, and our actions will determine whether our friends and neighbors will have access to the road to well-being or make a turn toward poor health and limited resources. Please become a part of the solution for Martin County. Thank you for your consideration.