Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An unhealthy situation: Being poor and young

Stories like these illustrate “a two-tier system” of health care, says Dr. Raul Vazquez, in which children of poverty and those near the poverty line are often treated unfavorably.
Unequal access to medical care strongly affects Buffalo, the nation’s second poorest big city, where nearly 43 percent of children — mostly black and Hispanic — are poor.
But it’s also a problem for all of Western New York, where 24,800 kids are uninsured, 92,585 receive Medicaid and 23,304 get state-subsidized Child Health Plus, according to the state Department of Health.
The problem of access is increasingly affecting the middle class, especially those whose incomes leave them underinsured. But it lands particularly hard on poor children, medical professionals say, because of their susceptibility to such chronic health maladies as asthma, diabetes, obesity, poor dental health, trauma, behavioral disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and exposure to lead paint.
“Health care for children in Buffalo is horrible, and it’s getting worse,” said Vazquez, a family doctor.