How many times have you heard someone say, “That person in the waiting area at the emergency room is on Medicaid but they have name-brand tennis shoes and an iPhone” or “Did you see that person in the grocery line buying steaks with food stamps?” These “hidden rules” of poverty need to be re-examined in our society. According to Terie Dreussi-Smith, co-author of Bridges Out of Poverty and the soon-to-be-released Bridges into Health, our society “drips with disdain” for the shoulds and should-nots of people in poverty. I was fortunate to attend the Bridges into Health Conference in April sponsored by Circles Wyoming (Tim Thorson) and Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. The experience was truly eye opening with regard to disparities in health care and the effect that poverty has on health.

Some of the most important points from this conference were:

  • The more we understand how class affects us and are open to hear how it affects others, the more effective we can be.

  • People in all classes, sectors, and political persuasions are problem-solvers and need to be at the decision-making table. People in poverty need to help develop policy for people in poverty.

  • The biggest return on investment in poverty is from Birth to 6 years.

  • Building networks across class lines builds social coherence and shifts power.

One of the most fascinating facts that I learned was that generational poverty actually leads to genetic changes and with fewer neural pathways being formed. This eliminates the popular myth that “if people would just work harder, they would succeed.” People in poverty do not have the same access to resources, language, social networks, and opportunities as those in other classes. I cannot possibly summarize the entire 8-hour conference in one article however, I welcome you to explore the following resources and rethink how you feel about poverty. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like more information.

-What Every Church Member Needs to Know About Poverty by Bill Ehlig & Ruby Payne

-People Like Us: Social Class in America Documentary on PBS

-Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-by-World: Building Your Resources for a Better Life by Phillip DeVol


Shelly, Ria, & Joan

Your Faith Community Nurse Team

Categories: FCN

1 Comment

Lea · July 10, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Thank you for bringing this important work to our attention by your article. I am reading the book Outliers. In a different manner, at least so far, it highlights how many factors are required to bread “success”. I hope we will hear more about this at church?

Comments are closed.