Report Shows Recent Widening Of Income Gap On Guam

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Guam’s socioeconomics ‘considerably worse’ than US: author

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Dec. 4, 2013) – Guam’s poverty rate grew and the income gap remained wide within a five-year period, according to government statistics released by the Department of Public Health and Social Services on Monday.

Figures show 19.9 percent of Guam residents lived in poverty in 2010, slightly down from 20 percent in 2008 but up from 15.9 percent in 2005.

According to the department’s Guam Community Health Assessment report, the island’s socio-economic condition along with other social factors – coupled with a poor health care system – pose a significant impact on Guam’s health status.

Guam’s poverty level – with reference to households that live on $14,999 and less a year – is above the United States’ 14 percent.

Median household income climbed to $39,052 in 2010 from $37,741 in 2008, but showed a plunge from $40,373 in 2005.

The poorest of the poor comprised 7 percent of all households on Guam, with 1.4 percent living on less than $3,000 a year and 5.6 with no income at all. In contrast, 11.6 percent of households made more than $100,000 a year.

"Although the unemployment rate is slightly lower in Guam, the median household income is about $13,000 less than the U.S. median household income, and per capita income is half of that in the United States," according to the Guam Community Health Assessment report, citing statistics from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

"Taken altogether, the socio-economic status of Guam residents is considerably worse than people living in the United States. This has significant adverse implications for health status," states the report written by Dr. Annette David and posted on the health department’s website.

Health profile

The report provides a baseline health profile for Guam, and documents the process for selection of community health priorities which will serve as the starting point for a continuous community health improvement strategic planning process.

"Throughout the report, health indicators were linked to social determinants, particularly sex, age, educational attainment, income and ethnicity/race," the study said.

The study established wide disparities in health care that exist in relation to socio-economic status and race.

"The results also underline the critical importance of redressing greater social inequities that lead to poorer health," the report said.

Researchers attributed high mortality rates for otherwise treatable diseases to a weak health care system on Guam.

"Potentially fatal incidents of heart attack, CDV, stroke and diabetes are due to complication of these conditions requiring tertiary-level hospital facilities and a specialized health workforce capable of performing complex procedures, such as angioplasties and coronary bypass for heart attacks and CVD, reperfusion technologies for stoke and kidney transplantation for diabetes related end stage renal disease," the report said.

"The insufficient hospital and health workforce per capita ratios in Guam contribute to reduced capacities of the health care systems to address potentially fatal (non-communicable disease) incidents," it added.

Stakeholders, who contributed to the report, thus noted that augmenting the health care systems should be a priority for overall health improvement on Guam.

"The construction of a second hospital in Guam will help to address the capacity shortfall; ensuring equitable access to this hospital for Guam’s population will be essential," the report said.

The report recommended that Guam explore available programs, such as those offered by the Affordable Care Act, to narrow the disparities that lead to poor health outcomes.

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