Dr. Michael Omidi discusses how living conditions and proper food can help low-income families preserve their physical health.
According to a report issued by the University of Maryland, the vast majority of funds for medical assistance in the United States goes to physician and hospital care, rather than preventative care. Preventative care would be classified as programs designed to keep the population healthy – physical education initiatives, drug prevention, healthy food drives and quality of life improvements. In an effort to keep their populations healthy, several organizations are working to keep the community properly fed and housed; two conditions that can ensure either health or illness.
The Affordable Care Act allows hospitals to pursue the implementation of programs that address food related illnesses – malnutrition and/or obesity. A study performed by the University of California at San Francisco found that hospital admissions for hypoglycemia and congestive heart failure was directly related to assistance payments running low before the end of the month.
Because food related medical conditions affect the influx of patients in community clinics and hospitals, many medical centers are assisting patients with their applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which is more commonly known as food stamps, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs. Moreover, other hospitals including Massachusetts General, are evaluating incoming patients for food insecurity, and opening food pantries.
Older patients are especially sensitive to illnesses related to food deprivation. New Milford Hospital in Connecticut began a “Senior Supper” program to help keep older members of the community fed, so as not to aggravate existing medical conditions. New Milford also has a “Chef Advocates” program for local youths that addresses nutrition and diabetes. Both programs stress the importance of fresh foods, portion control and eating locally.
In Washington D.C., in order to address the issue of low income families living in unfurnished homes, a nonprofit organization named A Wider Circle has provided a resource for furniture, beds and other amenities that help to make a home a home. Living in a dwelling with bare floors and possessions stored in shopping bags does not promote emotional or economic stability.
Sleeping on a mat for weeks at a time with no comforts; having no place to sit and eat meals and nowhere for children to do their homework or play can be demoralizing, and contributes to the cycle of poverty. Because poverty can accelerate depression, which in turn can aggravate as well as trigger physical health issues, including insomnia, heart disease, and diabetes. 
In addition to donating free furniture, A Wider Circle assists with developing life and job skills and nutritional guidance. To date, A Wider Circle has helped more than 120,000 furnish their homes and improve their lives overall.
Living well and eating well are two powerful tools for maintaining physical health, and if our communities and local governments provide plentiful and easily accessible resources for assistance, society will be rewarded with lower medical care costs and a fitter, stronger population.
 Gearon, Christopher J: Treating Hunger As a Health Issue US News and World Report 2/13/2014 http://health.usnews.com/health-news/hospital-of-tomorrow/articles/2014/02/13/treating-hunger-as-a-health-issue
 Klairmont, Laura: Tackling Poverty in Nation’s Capitol, One Bed at a Time CNN 2/28/2014 http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/27/us/cnnheroes-bergel/