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Poverty and Health

January 22, 2014

I have been pondering this topic for some time now. I don’t believe that we can address the inadequacies of the health system without also addressing poverty and housing issues, access to education and good food. All of these things are very much inter-related – hence the reason why Timebanking has so much to offer the health system.

As I write this, I have $140 to my name; total. $100 of this is in the shape of a cheque I received for Christmas from my Gran (thanks Gran!!) Yesterday I had to ask her to sign ‘please pay cash’ on the back so that I can pay my rent this week. My phone and credit card bills are overdue, and I’ve just got a $905 bill for (darn it!!!) scraping an Audi in a carpark after a night-shift – not insured, can’t afford it. Happily, and surprisingly, I’m not feeling too stressed out about my financial situation, although it is as dire as it has ever been!! But I’ve also run out of prescription meds and I can’t afford to see the doctor right now.

Lucky for me, not only will I be paid next week, but I live with friends who won’t see me starve. I have great support from my family and I know I am safe from destitution. Not only that, but I have no one else dependent on me and I own my own house(bus). It makes a big difference to know there is a limit to how bad it can get. But not everyone is so lucky, and for some, this is a constant state of affairs, through no fault of their own.

Imagine doctors visits are a luxury you can’t afford (not such a great leap for me right now!), the chances are you also have to buy the cheapest, most processed and nutrition-less food, and your house is damp and cold in winter. When you or one of your family gets sick, what do you do? I wouldn’t be the only ambulance officer to have ever asked someone in this position “Have you seen your doctor?” when the chest infection which could have been sorted by an early doctor’s visit now requires hospital care.

Timebanking can address these issues in multiple ways. Money can be saved by using the services of other Timebanking members; healthy food/vegetable co-ops are often one of the first off-shoots of local Timebanks in collaboration with Community Gardens; exercise and nutrition groups frequently spring up as well; gardening services and learning to grow your own food are easy through Timebanks; improvements to housing has been achieved with Timebanks; and where medical clinics have collaborated with Timebanking, health and access to healthcare has been improved.

The Rushey Green Medical Centre was the first in the UK to use Timebanking as part of its efforts to improve the health of the local community. Read more about what the Rushey Gree Timebank has achieved  here: http://www.cihm.leeds.ac.uk/new/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/Rushey-Green-Time-Bank.pdf and here: http://timebanks.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/KeepingtheGPAway.pdf

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