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Fiscal Health May Improve Physical Health

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Teaching fiscal responsibility to poor single mothers seemed to correlate with improvements in physical health so researchers are launching a larger study to see if the observations hold up.

Single mothers living in poverty can improve their health when they take charge of their financial lives, according to preliminary findings that researchers now hope to demonstrate in a much larger study.

The Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business in Omaha teaches women how to take control of their finances and executive director Julie Kalkowski says the single mothers who participate in the program also reported better health. So she designed a pilot study that monitored things like blood pressure, body mass index and eating habits. She says her colleagues in healthcare were impressed with the results.

“The public health people are like, are you crazy? Do you know how long we’ve tried to get Americans to stop eating fast food and exercise more?” Kalkowski said, “And you do financial education and it works?”

Kalkowski says now a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will fund a year-long study to see if the results hold up with a group of several hundred participants. She says finances are a huge source of stress, and when that gets reduced or eliminated people also find they may get promoted at work, eat better and see improvements at home.

“We think by really changing detrimental financial behavior, it affects their health, but we’re also seeing changes in parenting,” Kalkowski said. “We just got a quote from one of the women who just said, ‘you know, I have a lot more patience with my kids.’”

Kalkowski is hoping to bring the program to Council Bluffs, too.  

If the preliminary results hold in her larger study, she says financial education could become another tool for public health.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames