Unnatural Causes: In Sickness and In Wealth

The Unnatural Causes documentary did not shock me with new information but in some ways, but I was still in disbelief at the state of health across different communities in the United States. The opening line was that American spends trillions on healthcare but we still have lower life expectancy and poorer health than other developed nations, which is very disconcerting. The study done in Kentucky on excess death was particularly frightening. To think that there are higher death rates in some areas from preventable diseases caused me to be incredibly disappointed by the United States healthcare system once again.

    The documentary mentioned that these health inequalities is due to a lack of resources stemming from policy. Control of destiny is a false myth along with the bootstraps concept, which has been used to discredit people of color many times. Race and socioeconomic status intersect to decrease control of destiny and health, leading to stress on the body. This activates the stress response which is not a bad thing normally but chronic stress can lead to damaging levels of cortisol and more susceptibility to illness. I though the stress study done with dominant and non dominant monkeys was really interesting. Even when eating the same diet and being in the same environment the non dominant monkeys, the ones without power, had increased heart rates and were in a state of chronic stress. Comparing this study to humans, those with more education and income produce less cortisol and are less stressed, and get sick less often.

    The documentary also followed individuals in different careers. Those in high demand jobs with less control had higher blood pressure and those with high demand jobs but power and control, such as Taylor the CEO, stayed healthy. This makes me think about our education system which is designed to lead white economically stable groups to success. Women make less money than men on the dollar but women of color make even less than white women.  The well known wage gap is that women make about 79 cents to a man’s dollar but I remember doing research on this previously and discovering the wage gap goes all the way down to less 70 cents on the dollar for black women and less than 60 cents Latina women. That just does not sit well with me especially since there is a lot of opportunity for policy change as the documentary mentioned. Other developed nations have universal health care, better paid leave, and higher minimum wages. It seems to me the United States should adopt some of these policies in order to better our health across different racial and ethnic groups, despite socioeconomic status.

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