I heart PBS Documentaries

Yes, it's true. My movie choices definitely reflect that of a 50-year old. I love PBS documentaries and I'm not ashamed to admit it. What's helpful is that Andrew enjoys them too. In fact, he enjoys them way more than me. So before you judge me, know you're judging him too:D

I watched a documentary recently for work that was especially fascinating. It's called Unnatural Causes...is inequality making us sick? The series documents America's racial and socioeconomic inequities that affect peoples' health. The RI Dept of Health uses the documentary to educate residents, especially those in low income communities, about factors contributing to their health.

The premise: The western world continues to pour money into drugs, dietary supplements and new medical technologies, but what is really making us healthy or sick?

Unnatural Causes is a documentary attempting to get to the bottom of our health woes. "We're spending $2 trillion a year and rising on health care, more than twice per person than the average industrialized nation. Yet American life expectancy ranks 29th in the world, behind Costa Rica. Infant mortality? Cypress, Slovenia and Malta do better. One third of Americans are obese. Chronic illness now costs American businesses more than $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. It turns out there's much more to our health than bad habits, health care or unlucky genes. The social conditions in which we are born, live and work profoundly affect our well-being and longevity."

The following clip is the trailer which gives you a quick 5-minute summary into the series. It's amazing, albeit distressing, to see where America stands compared to other nations and to consciously evaluate why our health trends the way it does. This video is a good 4-1-1 on Public Health-the view that health is more than your stats at the doctors office; more than a common cold or treating disease. The movement of public health teaches that what you eat, where you live, what type of environment you're exposed to, the air you breathe, the amount of stress in your life, etc. shapes your health.

The videos are short, but I had trouble narrowing down to just a couple so I will give a brief explanation before each and maybe you can pick a few that sound interesting to you.

This clip hits at the core of inequity and social determinants of health. It's what I deal with often at work. We are plagued by problems begotten from previous national policies and programs that weren't healed by simply placing a band aid over them for decades.

I would call this one: The things you don't learn in history class. I have been amazed at how much I've learned about US history since graduating high school. I now see the "hole" in our history books--the sugar coating of our past. Either I was a really bad listener or our education system glazes over the skeletons in America's closet. I can honestly say that I never imagined seeing our president smoking a peace pipe, but I also would never have imagined seeing our role in stifling Native Americans' existence.

If it wasn't genetics, what was it? This clip documents the issue of low birth weight babies in America. This clip tells the story of a well-educated, African-American woman, who even with better economic status, still became a statistic.

I never understood the complexity and irony of health problems in America until I took public health courses in grad school and worked at a non-profit. I never noticed that the majority of fast food restaurants are located in low income areas. I also wouldn't have known that some wealthy suburbs have city ordinances banning drive-thrus, which ultimately prevents fast food chains from coming into the neighborhoods. In planning this is often referred to as NIMBY--"Not in My Backyard". We want power plants, sewage treatment facilities, prisons, homeless shelters, Wal-Mart, restaurants, etc. but we want it to be somewhere else, not near us...not in our backyard. As has been the case, the wealthy can fight back, while the poor can't fight for themselves. The mayor has political clout to keep something from being developed on open land in his suburb, but the low-income communities don't have any resources to prevent the demolition of houses and buildings in their neighborhoods for these same purposes.

Before working with marginalized communities, I never would have known that most low income neighborhoods only have convenience stores or corner stores, but no grocery stores. The families have access to liquor, candy bars, potato chips, and cigarettes, but no fresh produce. What is even more sad is hearing residents explain that they can go to a fast food place and get a whole meal (a burger and fries) from the dollar menu for $2.16 per person, but they can't get a meal out of what that would buy them in produce.

This video is very skeptical of the pharmaceutical industry, but it has some validity to be considered in terms of national agendas and policies neglecting preventative care.

I watched the full episode of this clip with a low income community at a meeting hosted by two students from the local alternative high school. I was so encouraged by how inspired the residents became about gaining knowledge and understanding, learning that their story wasn't unique and they weren't alone, seeing hope for their community, and watching solutions in action in other communities (Place Matters).

"The good news is that if bad health comes from policy decisions that we as a society have made, then we can make other decisions. Some countries already have, and they are living longer, fuller lives as a result."

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