Guest Column: How Can We End Poverty?

We are living in a time when knowledge is rapidly acquired and spread in society. Our cell phones give even the average citizen instant access to the entirety of human knowledge. Yet, with all this knowledge that has improved the lives of many, we still have not adequately addressed the problem of poverty that plagues so many. What is most distressing is the fact that we have allowed poverty and its effects on people to remain hidden.
Poverty has detrimental effects not only on individuals, but also on society as a whole. It’s causes stem from much more than simply a lack of money. Children born into poverty have higher rates of heart disease, drug use, unwanted pregnancy, poor academic performance, and violent crime victimization. These factors are costly to just about everyone one of our systems we have in place including our health care, education, and criminal justice institutions.
Over the years there have been various economic solutions to poverty introduced, with varying levels of success. There are interventions and policies that have been shown to not only directly affect economic standing, but also help mitigate some of the negative effects noted above before they occur. Additionally, such an approach saves taxpayer money by eliminating problems down the line that would be much costlier to our society if they were to develop. Evidence based prevention provides policymakers with proven solutions, as opposed to speculation.
Research has shown that increasing the effectiveness of parenting supports would help in reducing poverty; as would increasing funding for education, more specifically preschool and post-secondary education. Plus, there are specific interventions that can help. More support is needed for school readiness programs such as Healthy Steps, Reach Out and Read, VIP, Incredible Years, Medical Legal Partnerships, and the Positive Parenting Program.
We do not need to accept poverty as a given. We have scientific research that can provide a guide on how to significantly reduce it and its effects. We need to begin integrating science-backed research results into all aspects of a societal effort to reduce poverty. We can maximize results by using programs that work and thus save taxpayer dollars. Reducing poverty raises the quality of life for not only those experiencing it, but for the community as a whole.
The National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC; www.npscoalition.org) stands by a scientifically sound strategy to advance a national mentality and governmental policies that prioritize the prevention of problems before they occur. The goal is to reduce government expenditures, while supporting conditions under which children, adolescents, families and communities can thrive. The NPSC can provide guidance, materials, connections to scientists, practitioners and policy-makers, and other resources needed to enact this strategy.
Gilroy resident Michael Castro is working towards his Master’s in Public Health at SJSU. He focuses on poverty reduction and prevention science.

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