As of 2019, Fulton County, located in New York, had a population of around 53,000 individuals. The racial makeup of Fulton County is as follows- 93% non-Hispanic white, 2.2% Black or African American, 3.5% Hispanic or Latinos, and 0.3% African Americans. What is most surprising, however,is that 14% of the county population lived at or below the poverty line, making it statistically similar to Schenectady County. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, individuals living in such communities are likely struggling in terms of their income, even to provide basic necessities such as food. Despite government efforts, stimulus checks provided by the administration only slightly help these families and are a short term solution to an ongoing, long term problem. According to the Census Bureau, the official poverty definition uses money income before taxes and does not include capital gains or noncash benefits, such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps (census.gov). Living in such extreme circumstances can cause a lot of stress and mental health issues for families, especially those with many members and large households. Moreover, it has been scientifically studied that the amount of stress hormone, cortisol, one produces is proportional to one’s socio-economic status. It is often the case that lower-income families, such as those in Fulton and Schenectady Counties, experience large amounts of stress; putting food on the table, supporting education, and caring for oneself becomes increasingly challenging while also under financial strain. This long term exposure to stress and release of stress hormones can not only lead to mental health issues, but it can also lead to other severe health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. This information suggests a strong correlation between income and variations in health, and according to the Health Foundation, people with lower incomes are more likely to say their health is “bad” or “very bad”.
I was fortunate enough to talk to an ex-social worker from Fulton County, something I will discuss further in my future blogs about different topics. However, when discussing monthly income, it was shocking to learn that some people in the community cannot even afford a monthly $5 gym membership. Additionally, not many people in the county have insurance, and many cannot be qualified for Medicaid. Due to these financial factors and more, many community members are not able to seek proper medical attention when they are sick. On top of not being able to qualify for Medicaid, the government of Fulton County is not being able to provide additional help to those in need. Thus, those without insurance are at a massive disadvantage, often left with no way to afford healthcare, something that should be readily accessible to all.