Aspire to Ascend: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Posted on: May 3, 2021Pittsburgh

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory created by Abraham Maslow to describe an individual’s basic needs in hierarchical order (see below diagram for reference). These needs are physiological (food, water, clothing, shelter), safety (emotional and physical), love and belonging (individual relationships and communities we are a part of), esteem (of self and recognition by others) and self-actualization (creativity, spontaneity, trying to be one's best self). Maslow's theory suggests that we need to have our most basic physical and emotional needs met before attending to needs higher on the pyramid.


At my host site, Bethlehem Haven, most of our clients are still seeking to achieve more stable living environments, food security, and physical/emotional safety. Through my role as a Care Coordinator, I help individuals make progress to work their way up the pyramid. I support clients at our facility through individual and group health education classes, art therapy, obtaining food/clothing, making follow-up medical appointments and post-discharge care to help them remain housed. 

Bethlehem Haven’s Medical Respite facility as a whole is unique in that it targets many of these levels simultaneously. Our integrated care model strives to address an individual’s needs in a more holistic manner. Primarily, we provide a stable source of food, water and shelter for clients throughout their stay to meet their basic physiological and safety needs. Beyond that, we have medical staff to address their acute/recuperative medical needs, a housing coordinator to work to improve their living situation post-discharge, and a social worker who connects them to social, financial and behavioral/mental health resources. It has been incredible to see the transformations some clients are able to make both physically and emotionally in their time at our facility. 

During National Health Corps training days and check-ins, our cohort comes together to unpack our experiences and build on our knowledge/understanding of the multitude of individual barriers and systemic inequities that prevent people from getting their needs met. I am so proud of all the ways I have seen my fellow cohort members grow throughout this year and work to reduce health disparities and foster healthy communities throughout Allegheny County. As future medical and public health professionals, we must stay critical of our current healthcare system and continually discuss ways that we can strive towards greater health equity in the United States.

Lastly, we can apply Maslow’s Hierarchy to our own lives - making sure we are meeting our own needs, maintaining a growth mindset and continually striving towards self-fulfillment. Because as our fearless leader, Irving Torres, reminds us: in order to help others, we must first help ourselves. 


About the Author:

Lexi Hilton

Why did you join AmeriCorps/National Health Corps? I want to provide support to vulnerable populations and National Health Corps is a unique opportunity to be of service to a community while also engaging in learning opportunities and growth with a diverse cohort.