Unnatural Causes: Place Matters

Episode 3 of Unnatural Causes discusses the idea that simply where you live can make you sick. Your environment includes social matters, violence and crime, healthy food, and walkability. We have repeatedly learned in class that there are many determinants of health – including SES, race, gender, etc. This video discusses how much place matters in health outcomes. In terms of chronic diseases, people typically think of individual risk factors, such as diet and exercise. However, your geographic location can have just as much of an impact. For example, Richmond has higher rates of death from heart disease and asthma. In fact, kids in Richmond are hospitalized for asthma twice the rate of surrounding areas.  The video discussed the history racially-segregated housing, information that we have learned in other class material. However, I was unaware of the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond in which loans were awarded on a racially restricted basis. $120 million in government loans were given out, with less than 2% of the loans going to non-white families.

The video shared the story of refugee from Laos who now works as a school janitor. He suffered a major heart attack, in part due to the stressors of being an immigrant into a new country. He has been classified as an Asian American which can be largely detrimental, since he does not self classify himself as an Asian American. He can experience negative effects of not living up to expectations as the model minority.

Another quote in the video that really resonated with me was “people who live in low-income, disinvested communities did not do this to themselves”. I think the easiest answer to produce in regards to eliminating racial disparities is telling racial minorities to change their situations themselves. However, many fail to recognize the vast amount of barriers that prevent this from happening. Simply, understanding the segregated housing and that blacks were left behind in neglected neighborhoods is just one example of how blacks did not “do this to themselves”.

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