AMA: Low-wage work exacerbates health inequalities

One in 10 Americans lives in poverty. Most have jobs but still struggle to afford the necessities to stay healthy. The social determinants of health – which include education, housing, wealth, income and employment – “are impacted by larger and more powerful systems that lead to discrimination, exploitation, marginalization, ‘exclusion and isolation’, according to a report whose recommendations were AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago.

“There is broad consensus that low-income populations have poorer health outcomes,” says the report released by the AMA Council on Medical Service. “This exacerbates health inequities because women and people of color (many of whom support families) are more likely to earn low wages. Black and Hispanic individuals and families are specifically disproportionately represented among minimum wage workers.

Research on wages, income and health suggests that policies aimed at increasing the take-home pay of low-income populations would improve their health status and reduce health care costs, the council’s report says.

“Put simply, reducing poverty improves health,” said David H. Aizuss, MD, AMA Trustee. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created a simultaneous economic and public health crisis that has exposed and exacerbated access to care and other social inequalities.

“Not only has the pandemic disproportionately impacted minority and marginalized communities, but economic insecurity, housing insecurity and food insecurity have disproportionately impacted communities of color and other historically marginalized populations. , highlighting with startling relief that people with lower incomes have worse health outcomes. said Dr. Aizuss, a board-certified ophthalmologist living in Calabasas, California.

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“Too many people are working full-time jobs – sometimes more than one job – and are unable to top poverty wages,” Dr Aizuss added. “That has to change.”

Whether by raising the minimum wage has fueled political and economic debate.

Some policymakers have called for local or regional adjustments to the federal minimum wage, but that would not take into account variations in the cost of living in the United States, according to the council’s report. Wages do not always reflect the skill or risk of the job.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that set the minimum wage above the federal minimum. Any value set at the minimum wage will erode over time, the council’s report acknowledges. “There are significant complexities and unintended consequences inherent in selecting an index for perpetual minimum wage adjustment,” the report states.

Based on the report’s findings, the AMA House of Delegates (HOD) passed a policy declaring that “poverty is detrimental to health.”

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Delegates also adopted a policy affirming that federal, state, or local minimum wage policies should:

  • Include plans for adjusting the minimum wage level in the future and an explanation of how these adjustments keep pace with inflation.
  • Be consistent with WADA’s commitment to speak out against policies that create greater health inequities and to be a voice for our most vulnerable populations who will suffer the most from these policies, further widening the gaps that exist in health and well-being in our country.
  • Be consistent with the WADA principle that the highest attainable standard of health, in all its dimensions, is a fundamental human right and that optimizing the social determinants of health is an ethical obligation of a civil society.
  • Include an explanation of how geographic variations in the cost of living have been taken into account.

Check out other highlights from the 2022 AMA Annual Meeting.

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