Date of Award
Master of Social Work (MSW)
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that the prevailing public discourse around improving the health of Canadians has failed to provide any meaningful results. Despite universal access to a publicly funded system of health care delivery, the research clearly demonstrates that persons with low incomes can expect to be less healthy, suffer more and die earlier than their wealthier neighbours, simply because they are poor. In particular, women marginalized by poverty are at much higher risk for inequitable health care treatment as well as the gamut of health related concerns. As poverty becomes increasingly feminized and medicalized as a result of shifting socio-political priorities, the consequences for women may be particularly dire.
This paper focuses on the health and health care needs of low-income women living in an urban setting. Based on the findings of a qualitative study, it explores the relationship between health, poverty and gender and discusses how those most impacted view their own health and the health care they receive. The results indicate that the traditional biomedical discourse that individualizes health matters does not adequately reflect the complex and multidimensional health needs of low-income women that are often rooted in their social locations. As a result, current health care responses offer only limited solutions to women's health problems. Further, based on participants' narrative accounts, women who experience poverty also experience significant marginalization when accessing mainstream health services. Using an institutional ethnographic analysis to frame the findings, this paper concludes that the health care oflow-income women is largely structurally determined as a product of dominant ruling relations that reinforce and perpetuate the feminization and medicalization of women's poverty. Poor health is a product of societal injustices and, therefore, requires responses beyond the individual including policy, practice and research initiatives.
Palmer, Leah M., "Meeting the Health and Health Care Needs of Low-Income Women" (2006). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4885.
McMaster University Library