Unnatural Causes: Place Matters

This segment of Unnatural Causes focused on the idea that health is embedded in where and individual lives and works. The video explored the residential neighborhoods in two cities located in Seattle and California. Richmond, California was shown to have a lot of negative risk factors in the environment that affected the health of its residents. One man, Gwai was a refugee from Laos who worked as a school janitor and suffered a heart attack at the young age of 39. The environmental factors plaguing his residential area were things like petro chemical releases from nearby factories and unsafe public spaces. Gwai lives in a community with high rates of violence, which impacted his own family. The violence in Richmond is so bad that the city is ranked the highest in murder rates. It is quite sad to see how this type of living can restrict residents from living their lives. If you are constantly in fear from living in this type of community, then it is unlikely you are going to exercise outside because you fear for your life. My mother and I temporarily lived in an apartment complex that was under such conditions. At night, I never ventured outside because I was worried about my safety. I can only imagine how stressful living long-term in a place like Richmond can affect people.

The video stated that residents who live in low-income communities are at a 50-80% chance of heart disease. This is not actually surprising given the poor food choices offered to people that live in disadvantaged locations. They are surrounded by fast food restaurants and the closest health-conscious supermarket is probably on the other side of town or not close enough to be convenient to residents in these communities. These people are victims to a system that is purposely targeting them everyday.

Conversely, residents who live in the new High Point community are having a chance to thrive. The Seattle Housing Authority actually reached out to residents living in this terrible area and asked them for their input into a new housing project with health as its focus. It is remarkable getting to see the difference between the old and new community of High Point. They even created houses to battle asthma; they are called Breathe easy homes. The cost to build those homes were 6,000 dollars less than emergency room visits parents had to take when living in the old housing units. Even though there were some negative consequences of this housing project, like some residents being displaced and never returning, I think the benefits of the project outweighed the negative costs. People who live in these disadvantaged areas know what they need; they just want people who are in authority to listen and be open to making changes.

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