:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Saturday, March 05, 2005  

A child needs more than healthcare and food to make it in this world...

Last fall, I accompanied a family medicine doctor on several home visits to check up on a few patients in the town his clinic was based in. Each visit had such a profound impact on me -- not only could I finally see the patient in the context of his or her community (neighborhood, house/apt, family), but the limits of modern medicine were so apparent among all the societal factors that contribute to peoples' lives. I'd be both frustrated at the situation and happy to be connecting with patients in their home environments. So it was heartening to see another medical student ("dr. honeydew" over at Push Fluids) rant about society's priorities after a home visit:

...I accompanied a preventative services case worker whose job for the day was checking up on an 18 month-old and a 15 month-old to assess their developmental progress. Both children were happy, playful, and hilariously cute. On the surface, there was nothing abnormal about these kids. If I'd seen them in a clinic, they'd be just two more happy faces.

Yet, the 15-month old lives in a 3 bedroom apartment with 3 other familes. (Total = four families.) There were a few bicycles in the apartment and in the hallway - many of the fathers are working long hours as delivery men. You'd think that under these conditions, making ends meet would be possible. Think again though - the rent is too steep, and the mother we spoke to today said she was looking for a new place to live.

Add to this the fact that the mother and father of this child cannot speak English and cannot even write in Spanish - they never learned to read. Thus, they are unable to advocate for themselves, let alone for their 15 month-old son.

Is it really any wonder that so many urban youths are destined for future problems? People point their fingers at "schools" and "drugs" and "gangs" and "crime." Are these really the heart of the problem, or just symptoms?

Medical pathology abounds in neighborhoods like these - asthma, drug use, malnutrition, developmental delay, mental health issues, etc., etc. The deeper pathology is our society's willingness to allow people to live in our country under such egregiously inhospitable conditions.

Better schools and better social services are definately a step in the right direction, but until society stops exploiting these people, their children will never have a fair shot at the American Dream. It is really pathetic that the wealthiest of Americans are getting tax cuts, buying Picasso's and bequeathing fortunes to their alma maters, while children are being raised in poverty.

It is not easy to raise children under any circumstances. When our society accepts that the raising of certain children will be nearly impossible, it is, in my opinion, nothing short of a collective criminal act. Jacob Riis documented the lives of "The Other Half" more than one-hundred years ago. Granted, we've come pretty far since then, but a child needs more than health care and food to make it in the world. When are we going to get off of our collective asses and do something about this? (And can we please not vote for any more Republicans?!)

posted by Anjali Taneja | 3/05/2005 07:39:00 PM | |


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