Health needs of people living below poverty level

Barbara A Elliott, M. K. Beattie, S. E. Kaitfors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background and Objectives: Low-income populations, especially persons without health insurance, suffer disproportionately with a variety of chronic ailments, postpone getting medical care, and have shorter life spans. This study was conducted to better understand the health care needs and behaviors of people living in poverty. Methods: Participants for the study were recruited through agencies serving low-income and homeless people, neighborhood businesses, churches, and subsidized housing units. All participants were adults who had incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. Subjects completed face-to-face interviews to answer questions about demographics and their concerns about health care. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were performed. Results: A total of 750 people were interviewed, with 729 providing usable data. Thirty-seven percent of subjects reported spending at least part of the previous year without health insurance. Fifty-six percent of these individuals were persons who were employed but whose employers did not provide health insurance. Reported health concerns were access to care (reported by 21% of subjects), costs of care (13%), and ability to purchase medications (15%). Forty-five percent of subjects reported receiving mental health services; these subjects were concerned about their ability to continue receiving care and to afford medications. Conclusions: The portion of the low-income population that is uninsured for part or all of a year is greater than in published reports. The health behaviors of this group are easily understood when coverage (if any), level of income, age, and health care needs are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-366
Number of pages6
JournalFamily Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 21 2001


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