Poor health impacts everything else. Relationships suffer, undermining the networks that help people cope. It's harder to find and keep work. It's more difficult to climb out of financial hardship.
The QIPN has focused this month on keeping fit and fed. Future newsletters will look at staying warm and well, and mental health matters. 37% of our readers (who did not respond online) told us they have been skipping meals to make ends meet. Among working age people not in full-time employment – including hard-working part-timers, carers and students, as well as disabled, incapacitated and unemployed people – the figure was 52% missing eats. Applied to all social tenants, the number would be an estimated 3,626,000 people going hungry.
Our claims sound dramatic. Melodramatic, even. But then, (on the night we originally posted this blog), BBC's Newsnight reported on a 5 per cent increase in A&E admissions. Surprisingly perhaps, healthcare professionals reckon this is in large part due to the impact of austerity.
At forum meetings we've been making the case that if we all put the poverty or financial inclusion agenda in the context of public health, it would get a lot more political attention – backing even. The impact on GPs alone must be huge if this many people are malnourished, although I bet not all patients don't tell doctors they're not eating because they're broke. It's reasonable to assume bigger problems develop over time, costing exponentially more.
By zooming out of the detail around money management or poverty, we can see broader issues that can help people stay fit, if not fed. Important to change the money in people's pockets, Quids in! magazine will be running a feature this winter on ways to stay healthy despite having to go without food or heating or good emotional health. Exercise costs nothing and can prevent problems in body and mind. Vitamin supplements that are cheap per daily dose compared even to a hearty sandwich are worth considering. A few simple steps to follow to be able to prioritise staying warm, could pay dividends for people whose fear of rocketing bills is a bigger risk than the costs themselves. And talking to a GP or even friends with a level head might be all someone who is anxious, and who might be on the road to mental health issues, needs.
This is all kind of like reverse social prescribing – preventing ill-health by advising people with money worries on how to look after their health.
People's health is our business. While we're about good money management and combating poverty, why is that? It's because not doing so ruins people's lives. And because, at the end of the day, ruined lives are statistically shorter lives.