This documentary episode titled, “Place Matters” focused on environmental determinants of health and how important the location of where one lives is to an individual’s health outcomes. The video touched on a lot of the same ideas as the textbook such as access to resources such as healthy food, safe housing, desirable establishments, walkability of neighborhoods, crime rates, and more. I enjoyed the video because it gave a new perspective on environment that was not covered in class or the textbook- It examined a specific case in Richmond, California where environment was an evident predictor of health for a family who immigrated from Laos. The living conditions and rate of disease in this area are disturbing and life threatening making it difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle. One thing that the documentary pointed out that stuck with me is how bad habits are so clearly socially patterned by neighborhoods. In other words, when a neighborhood has poor living conditions, it is easy to fall into the unhealthy conditions for many reasons. It could be lack of education, lack of resources, or perceived lack of opportunity to escape the unhealthy lifestyle, but regardless of what is stopping people from escaping these poor habits, the extent that habits are socially patterned by neighborhoods is a big issue and one of the reasons that certain neighborhoods become so poor to live in and struggle to change.
Another thing that stuck out to me in the documentary was when they talked about stress levels and the extent that experiencing high levels of stress can negatively impact your health. In Gwua’s case, within weeks of moving to Richmond and being exposed to such a poor environment, he experienced a major heart attack. This heart attack was related to the high levels of stress he was experiencing and it is clear that his environment is something that contributed to the high stress levels. While many people experience anxiety, being placed in an environment that creates and supports higher levels of anxiety is a clear determinant of poor health and disease. Personally, I have seen environment and high anxiety level affect my own health. Every year when returning back to school from the summer, I get sick. While University of Richmond is a healthy, safe environment, I think the mix between the spike in anxiety that comes with the new school year, and changing my living environment from a peaceful home, to an active on campus dorm that is filled with other students causes health issues.
Finally, I thought the point about exposure to violence is a predictor of bad health was very interesting. It made me think deeper into how our experiences impact or brain and body, and in turn, affect our overall health outcomes. It is not surprising that exposure to violence is a predictor of poor health because witnessing a violent event triggers physiological responses in people that are associated with high levels of anxiety, which we know causes poor health. The anxiety that comes from violence also impacts people in other ways. For example, it will compromise their level of comfort with walking around safely in their own neighborhood. Overall, I did my in class presentation on environmental determinants of health and this documentary gave me new insight and perspective to how important environment truly is.