Poverty, Infections and Inequality in the World’s Richest Country

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In a compelling editorial published this week in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases Peter Hotez  draws attention to the infections of poverty as the latest affliction affecting the poorest people in the world’s wealthiest country, the USA.

Source: Map created by Jessica Schwartz, The George Washington University doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000843.g001

Outside of the US, Washington, D.C. and the Gulf Coast are, respectively, more likely to be thought of as the seat of global power or as the home of endless sunshine. By contrast, Hotez argues that “Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the BP oil disaster have shed light on a tragic level of poverty in the northern Gulf of Mexico” and that “Washington, D.C., rivals Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as among the worst in terms of life expectancy and health index”. His list of the diseases common in these communities is stark, and shaming -Trichomoniasis, Toxocariasis, congential toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus – even leaving aside the “astonishing” prevalence of HIV- 6.5% of African American males in Washington, D.C..

His conclusion is hard to disagree with: “The fact that we know so little about the neglected infections of poverty in America’s most distressed areas is representative of just how glaring these conditions are as health disparities.”

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