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The medicalization of poverty in the lives of low-income black mothers and children

Date Added to Library: 
Monday, December 10, 2018 - 10:38
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Individual Author: 
Mendenhall, Ruby
Reference Type: 
Research Methodology: 
Place Published: 
Boston, MA
Published Date: 
Fall 2018
Published Date (Text): 
Fall 2018
Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Issue Number: 
Page Range: 

Scholars are beginning to use the concept medicalization of poverty to theorize how the United States spends large amounts of money on illnesses related to poverty but invests much less in preventing these illnesses and the conditions that create them (e.g., economic insecurity, housing instability, continuous exposure to violence, and racism). This study examines the connection between poverty, disease burden and health-related costs through the in-depth interviews of 86 Black mothers living in neighborhoods with high levels of violence on the South Side of Chicago. The rippling costs of poverty and violence include 56 percent of the mothers reporting post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and 48 percent reporting mild to severe depressive symptoms. Mothers also report poor housing quality such as “toxic mold.” The physical costs include reports of back pains, stomach aches, hair falling out, panic attacks, hands shaking, insomnia (sometimes for two days), fainting from exhaustion and lack of sexual desire, and children with asthma and osteomyelitis reportedly from the exposure to mold. Transformative solutions are explored that build upon the cultural resources of Black mothers (e.g., women-centered networks, spirituality and collective-cooperatives) and engage policy levers (e.g., Earned Income Tax Credit and Tax Increment Financing). (Author abstract)


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SAGE Journals

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