Despite entering the third decade of the 21st century, millions of Americans continue to experience barriers to their well-being and ability to reach their full potential. Because of this, the well-being of people and the communities we share is also hindered. To call attention to these critical issues, we recognize Poverty in America Awareness Month brings attention to these critical issues in January.

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities has a unique focus on the relationship between poverty, brain science, and health. This intersection is important because the social and emotional aspects of our lives have the strongest capacity for supporting well-being. 

The social determinants of health—factors that include housing, education, neighborhood safety, and access to health care—have been addressed in the More Than Health Care podcast. A recent episode featuring Beth Babcock, president of EMPath, shared what brain science has taught us about the impact of people’s environments and life experiences on their physical health, social, and emotional well-being. 

“What we know is that stress does impact how we think, behave, and how our bodies function—how we battle disease,” Babcock stated. “In the past we looked at the body and how to treat it—now we know a big way to impact health outcomes is to look at their environment and their life experience and how it is impacting them. Look at the kind of resources they have and the way that they live, think, and behave. So, you can create better opportunities for them to help themselves get ahead. We work on lessening the stresses that create the negative heath impacts for those living in poverty.”

Listen to the podcast: Leveraging Brain Science to Promote Health and Well-Being.

Resources on the Relationship between Poverty, Brain Science, and Health

Research on Fostering Healthy Development

Learning and Networking Opportunity

  • Impacting Poverty through People and Place Convening and Study Tour
    Event: March 18-20 in Houston
    This event will examine how community-based organizations can reduce the impact of poverty by engaging residents and building upon neighborhoods’ strengths and assets. Explore how to effectively generate opportunity by co-creating with community and engaging all voices.

Tools to Track Poverty and Health Trends

  • Kids Count Data Center: A project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this resource is a premier source of data on children and families that assesses child well-being in the U.S.
  • County Health Rankings and Roadmaps: The annual County Health Rankings measure numerous factors related to the social determinants of health including high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, unemployment, access to healthy foods, air and water quality, teen births, and income inequality.
  • National Equity Atlas: This data and policy tool is for community leaders and policymakers who are working to build a new economy that is equitable, resilient, and prosperous. Data include insight to demographic change, racial inclusion, and the economic benefits of equity.
  • Opportunity Index: Is a multidimensional framework report that provides a broad picture of opportunity that goes beyond economics alone. Indicators within four dimensions of community well-being include economy, education, and health.