Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Women’s Initiative Partners with UCSF to Research Microenterprise Development and Community Health

Can microenterprise development improve community health?

Microenterprise development is widely recognized as a poverty alleviation and economic development strategy for low-income, minority and immigrant communities but little is known about impact of microenterprise development on the health and well-being of these communities. Women’s Initiative believes that that the best way to reduce health risks associated with poverty is to reduce poverty, starting with wives and mothers.

A review of the relationship between family and health published by the Journal of Marriage and the Family showed that women’s employment and her family’s socioeconomic status have been found to be key factors for her family’s physical and psychological health. According to a policy brief on health disparities among women published by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research in November 2009, low-income women in California are four times more likely than women who are not low-income to report poor health and 41 percent of low-income women in California are uninsured. The Population Reference Bureau reported that children who live in poverty run a higher risk for health problems, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school, substance abuse and behavioral problems. Children who grow up in impoverished neighborhoods are more likely to live in such areas as adults as well. An analysis done by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) on national US census data on poverty for 2008 showed that the number of women and children living in poverty and extreme poverty is growing while the number of women with health insurance is shrinking. For African-American women and Latinas, poverty rates are the highest while insurance rates are the lowest. The BBC reported that that despite medical advances, public health experts had found that the link between poverty and early death remains as strong as it was one century ago. Health disparities among low-income women, women-headed households and low-income communities are a serious public health problem in California.

Women’s Initiative is partnering with health policy research experts at the University of California, San Francisco to conduct a ground breaking pilot study on the relationship between microenterprise development and community health, especially that of mothers and their children. Together with the university partners, Women’s Initiative is seeking a small University Community Partnerships grant with the Tides Foundation and hopes to leverage funding for the pilot project for a more extensive research on the impact of microenterprise development on the health and well-being of low-income, minority and immigrant communities.

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