By Khadijah Ali-Coleman
A new PBS documentary film, to be aired next spring, presents evidence that insists that race, money and education matter when it comes to health. On Thursday, September 27, the DC-based Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) held its 12th annual open meeting at George Washington University where a portion of the four-hour film series, “Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?” was screened. Invited guests of the meeting included staff from various organizations from across the city and surrounding suburbs, including Fight for Children, the National Kidney Foundation, the Nonprofit Roundtable, DC Action for Children and Maryland Citizen’s Health Initiative. The film was produced by Vital Pictures and California Newsreel. It is being presented by the National Minority Consortia, in association with the Joint Center Health Policy Institute.
“It’s a fact that race, sex, income and education dictate how your life is going to be,” said Margeret O’Bryan, CHF’s President and CEO, in her opening remarks prior to the film’s start. “African-Americans live six years less than their white counterparts. Sixty percent of African-Americans and twenty-three percent of Latino Americans,” she continues, “report being in poor health compared to 4% of white Americans.”
Supporting her statistics, the film takes the quantitative information and makes it easy to understand as an average viewer. The film features Dr. Adewale Troutman, founder of the nation’s first Center for Health Equity.
“Health is not just the absence of disease,” Troutman says in the film as he explains that health is about both physical and mental well-being. Showcased in the film as well as serving as the featured keynote for the CHF meeting, Troutman leads a team of research professionals who documented the data that was profiled in “Unnatural Causes”.
People from different communities—be them lower income or upper-middle class—were interviewed, speaking to their own various health issues or the health of their loved ones. One example is of an African-American man who speaks of how his mother’s health began deteriorating after she was laid off of her job. All of the stories illustrated through the film showed how things like money, availability of fresh food and stress impacted over-all well-being.
Rachel Poulain, Director of Outreach for California Newsreel and one of the producers who worked on the film says that the film was inspired by the success of California Newsreel’s previous documentary “Race– the Power of Illusion”, which addressed how, though there is no biological evidence that there are subdivisions of the human species, the power associated with racial labels impacts the way in which individuals live, achieve and become engaged within society. She says that “Unnatural Causes” was created intentionally as a series to encourage people to get involved in analyzing and taking action against health disparities. “The real power of the film will be when people use it to foster dialogue,” she said.
The premiere date on PBS is scheduled for late spring or early summer 2008. The producers have not yet gotten a definite date from PBS as to when the actual airing date will be. DVD release will take place this winter, specific date to be announce. For more information on “Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?” visit http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/
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