Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the War on Poverty, a set of legislation and programs intended to respond to the needs of people living in poverty. Today, many people still need and benefit from War on Poverty programs such as early childhood education, supplemental nutrition assistance (food stamps), work study opportunities, and federal family planning grants.
To commemorate this anniversary, the last few months have seen a kerfuffle of coverage on poverty and economic inequality, opportunity, and growth. Media coverage has also highlighted the connection between economic opportunity and reproductive health in that women need access to reproductive health services to prevent and delay childbearing so they can get further ahead in life, avoid poverty, or lift themselves out of poverty. This is very important. Indeed, data show that women reap substantial social and economic benefits when they are in control of their childbearing; but, that is only one way that economics and reproductive health outcomes intersect. We also understand that economic inequality and injustice can affect the human body and lead to negative health outcomes.
When we hear “stress kills,” we often imagine a wealthy business executive dying of a heart attack in their early 50s because they put in too many long nights at the office. But stress also kills pregnant Black women and their babies in a more surreptitious way. Economic inequality—simply described as the gap in wealth or income between people—takes a toll on health, even when people have health insurance coverage and access to important health-care services.
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