Medical students and residents at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine gained firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by low-income individuals through the Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) on Nov. 13. They gained a better understanding of poverty’s complexities and the impact of health care professionals when interacting with vulnerable populations.
The event, held in the Apollo Room of the Wright State University Student Union, was sponsored by the CareSource Foundation and Think Tank, Inc. It was developed in collaboration with low-income individuals who shared their stories in an effort to give participants an opportunity to move beyond stereotypes. Event organizers wanted to share a more holistic understanding of the causes and effects of poverty.
Throughout the afternoon, medical students and residents engaged through immersive roleplay and had to complete particular tasks such as securing transportation to get to an appointment or getting to work on time without a car. Participants had to make tough decisions like deciding whether to pay a utility bill instead of buying medicine or food.
With each decision, attendees quickly realized how physically and mentally exhausting it is to live in poverty. They experienced tradeoffs through learning how to make ends meet, go to work or school and care for a family.
Captured in the experience was the role the broader community plays in interactions with low-income families. Many organizations and communities across the nation use COPE to work more effectively with low-income families. This is because the experiential nature of the training helps organizations and communities more deeply understand the complexities of poverty, paving the way to address the issue more comprehensively.
For medical students and residents, the training helps them to become familiar with the vast array of challenges that their future patients may face. These hardships have a profound impact on patient wellbeing and the ability to follow health recommendations. As students played the roles of family members in poverty, instead of simply listening to a lecture, they learned firsthand the pervasive impact of significant financial stress on health.