Finding Free Healthcare in a Bad Economy

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In keeping my New Year's Resolution to "treat myself better," I decided to take a break from work on Saturday and go out for a nice, relaxing, (and healthy) lunch.

As I entered my favorite neighborhood haunt, the waitress greeted me and we exchanged New Year pleasantries—"how was your holiday?", "how are things going?", and "isn't this economy a mess?".  At this point, she told me that she was moving back home to help her mother.  Apparently, her mom had lost her job and could no longer pay the bills.  So, her "dutiful daughter" was moving back home and taking on a second job to help Mom make ends meet.  "Admirable--You gotta do what you gotta do." I said.  And although she was smiling, the stress in her voice and on her face was apparent.  This would be no small undertaking.  Like so many Americans, life had changed for her—for the worse.

After lunch, I began to think about all of the stories I've recently seen on television and read about in newspapers: retirees living on fixed incomes having to make hard choices about where and how they live; hard-working Americans who've lost their jobs and their homes having to go on welfare; honest working people who can no longer provide for themselves or their families. More than 2 million people have lost their jobs.  Economists predict the worst is yet to come—offering little or no relief in 2009. It's enough to make you sick just hearing about it—let alone living it.

The current bad economic news is causing sustained periods of high stress—something that we know has a negative impact on health—especially in the minority population.  People experiencing prolonged periods of high stress are more prone to heart problems, diabetes, depression, elevated cholesterol levels, and domestic violence.  Moreover, the choices people often make to cope with stress are unhealthy --overeating, smoking, drinking, drug abuse and taking on extra work to the point of mental and physical exhaustion—all choices that only make the problem worse.

In a poor economic climate, personal health choices also suffer.  Increasingly, people are making fewer visits to the doctor, having fewer elective surgical procedures, losing health insurance coverage, and decreasing their purchase of prescription medications or arbitrarily cutting their dosage. When people delay needed medical care, conditions usually worsen. It's far more cost-effective to detect and treat serious illnesses like cancer, hypertension and diabetes early on, before they become worse and more costly to treat.  After all, no one wants to deal with cancer that has spread, a heart attack, a stroke or an amputation resulting from untreated diabetes.  Yet many African-Americans put themselves at risk for these expensive complications simply because they cannot see how to afford the care they so desperately need.

We at Journey To Wellness are concerned about our readers and listeners who are affected by the current financial crises.  If you need help with insurance or prescription medications, I invite you to visit the following links on our website to assist you with finding free or low-cost :

If you have resources that you'd like to share with our online health community, please send them to us—we'll put them up.  After all, you're not alone, we're with you on your journey to wellness…

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