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Friday, September 04, 2009

Emergency response

An article in the NY Times notes that in most cities, firefighters now spend a lot more time providing medical care than fighting fires.

It talks about a fire company in my own city, DC, as an example. A personal tidbit to add to this: My window at work looks out on the front entrance of a housing authority building across the street. It's not a huge place, 10 stories, probably less than 100 units total. Yet, I would estimate that the fire department responds to the building an average of almost once per day (and this is, of course, just during the workday). On only one occasion did I notice them doing things that indicated there might be a fire -- otherwise, they appear to be there for medical calls. In a building of no more than a few hundred residents, that certainly indicates deep dysfunction. It's hard to tell what portion is due to the medical system versus the pathologies of poverty in general, though...


hannah said...

I read that article too, Teague. But what exactly do you mean by "the pathologies of poverty in general?"

teague said...

I mean a couple things, I guess...there are ways that being poor impacts health aside from having worse access to medical care, like a less-healthy diet leading to higher rates of diabetes among the poor (and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the emergency calls in the building across from my office were in some way related to diabetes). Also, experience shows that it's harder to get those in poverty to take advantage of preventative care services when they are available...speculating a bit beyond what the research actually says, perhaps it's because poverty tends to cause people to focus on bread-on-the-table type issues, and thus only seek health care when it's urgent. Though lack of education probably plays a role, too.