This article explores the relationship between poverty and ill health in childhood in the United Kingdom and the United States. It argues that lifting children out of poverty is among the most important strategies to improve child health. In order to change policies on health and poverty, policymakers must consider the broad political context within which our health systems work. The United Kingdom has welfare state that sends checks and cash income to 85% of households every month. Many people pay into the welfare state, many people get money back, and everybody receives services. In the United States, the situation is different – many people pay into the state, but only the poor and corporations actually receive a check.
There are fundamental differences in our health systems. In the United Kingdom, 97% of expenditures on health are made by the state; there is virtually no private spending. In the United States, only 44% of health expenditures are made by the state. The limited amount of private health expenditures in the United Kingdom will be reduced further as the National Health Service provides more dentistry in the future. In terms of the amount of resources, the United States spends 14% of its gross domestic product on health, compared with 6% in the United Kingdom. The United States spent $3700 per person on health care in 1997. In the United Kingdom, we spent less than one third of that.
Author: David Gordon
Publisher: Pediatrics Journal, Vol. 112 No. 3 September 2003, pp. 725-726