January 30 — Unnatural Causes

UNNATURAL CAUSES is a documentary that explores how population health is shaped by the social and economic conditions in which we are born, live and work. Through portraits of individuals and families across the United States, the series reveals the root causes and extent of our alarming health inequities and searches for solutions. Along the way it confronts the inadequacy of conventional explanations like genetics, individual behaviors or even access to quality health care.
The Mystery: Given our wealth and medical advances, why does
the United States rank 29th in the world for life expectancy (as of
December 2007)? What are the connections between healthy bodies
and healthy bank accounts and race / ethnicity?
1. Class status correlates with health outcomes:
a. Our economic, social and built environments shape health
b. People who are middle to lower on the class pyramid are
exposed to more health threats (material deprivation to
chronic stressors) and have less access to the opportunities
and resources needed to control their destinies.
c. People middle to higher on the class pyramid have access
to more power and resources and in general live longer,
healthier lives. This is true not only for the bottom and
top but at every level.
d. Chronic activation of the body’s stress response wears
down our organs over time and increases disease risk.
2. Racism also threatens health, both “upstream” and independent
of class. At every income level, African Americans, Pacific
Islanders, Native Americans and other people of color often fare
worse than their white counterparts.
3. Social and economic policies have reduced health inequities in
the past and in other countries.

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