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Book and Media Reviews
April 12, 2006

Poverty and Health

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;295(14):1709-1714. doi:10.1001/jama.295.14.1711

The Cost of Being Poor could have been written against the backdrop of any number of societal ills and public health problems. Homelessness, poor nutrition, and compromised oral health all are associated with poverty. In this case, the author focuses on childhood lead poisoning, which offers a vivid example of how poverty undermines health and why the problem still exists today.

The health effects of childhood exposure to lead have been well-described.1 Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that subclinical effects on the central nervous system are still common in the United States and that 25% of US children remain at risk of lead poisoning.2 There is no known threshold below which adverse effects of lead do not occur, and recent studies demonstrate that lead-associated intellectual deficits occur at blood lead levels less than 10 μg/dL (which is the current level of concern set by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]).3,4