Thursday, March 27, 2008

Unnatural Causes: Place Matters

Unnatural Causes is now showing on PBS! Thursday evenings, starting tonight. TV is learning from the web: people want interactive information, people want to have a say, and PBS is providing it. Besides these events like I'm attending that are happening around the country, PBS is asking for your stories related to these ideas in the series. Share your stories here.

Oh, good thing I looked. Here in Oregon on OPB, it's showing on Sunday at 11 am. Here are the tv listings for everybody, may not be accurate. Here are OPB's listings. If you have HDTV, (like anybody who reads me you?) it's showing several more times.

The showings by Multnomah County aren't in the same order as they will be on the web. I saw episode 5, Place Matters, a week and a half ago. (I'm so behind with the blogging thing.) Again, this will contain spoilers, if you care about that before you watch a documentary.

Where you live has an effect on your health. Some of this was review, similar information as found in In Sickness and in Wealth. Obviously, place determines what you're exposed to. Who doesn't know about industries polluting the poor neighborhoods? Chemical agents, pollutants, violence, lack of access to fresh food, abundance of fast food joints...all of these contribute to poor health in poor neighborhoods.

In this episode, Richmond, California was featured. Like Louisville in the first episode, they showed that diseases cluster in certain parts of the city. Some differences were highlighted. Did you know it costs an average $500 more for a car in a poor neighborhood? I knew groceries cost more and are less abundant. Well-off communities have advantages and environmental support. Banks and other businesses move out of poor neighborhoods.

Cortisol from stress is covered again in this episode. Someone in a poor neighborhood has an "accumulation of multiple negative stress sources." A man named Gwai was featured. He'd had a recent heart attack. His daughter had been recently murdered by a SE Asian drug gang, mistaken identity or something. His son was involved with the wrong crowd.

Adult problems can be traced to childhood environment. Many kids in Richmond don't think they'll live to the age of 20. One program on hope tries to teach them how their actions can change their environment.

Asthma is certainly affected by place. Leaking windows encourage mold, moisture encourages dust mites and roaches.

High Point neighborhood in Seattle was also featured. It got a makeover, all new housing, with original tenants meant to move back. Community gardens were designed to be places that promote social gathering. Breathe-easy houses (wouldn't I love to have that) cost $6000 extra, or about 2 years of medical care. Would that all houses in the Pacific Northwest could have these breathe-easy features. Great idea, but the monetary support that created High Point was phased out. Some of the residents couldn't come back.

Sadly, not as many people came to this showing. Most of the people there were staff presenting it. Still, we had a good dialog. They liked my thought that Multnomah County can work under the radar. Average voters think of the mayor as the face of government, and think of the city when they don't like how things are run, but the county, with just as big responsibilities, usually seems to escape notice. (Our last County chair didn't get this: she ran things like a politician and got more noticed than she probably wanted.) The County thrived under Bev Stein before her, who ran things like a manager. Our current chair also seems to run things like a manager, and I think that bodes well.

When we do get noticed, it's for things people like, like the library. The health department wishes it got noticed more, I think. Several of the presenters are doctors in free clinics.

One of the things that gets my attention is how difficult it will be to sell this. The answers to "Unnatural Causes" are complicated. I said, "Politicians take this interconnected multi-layered thing and make it one thing, and talk that one thing to death. ...until's dead." Of course it would go a long way to help the health of all if we had a single-payer health care system, but these shows reveal there are causes that go way beyond that. We could never have a dialog like this on the national level...not the way political conversation happens now. But this is wild, this is amazing, on the county level.

We had a neat conversation about how we could get more fresh food and consciousness of fresh food in the kind of neighborhoods that are swamped with the fast food joints. We already have community gardens, but individuals sign up for plots in those, and waiting lists are long. Also, I'm not sure that there are as many community gardens in the poorer sections of the city. I thought it would be nice to have some community gardens that are actually communal, encouraging the social gathering place as mentioned of High Point. They could be places of education as well as sustenance.

Oh, hey! I discovered I'm getting paid to go to these. So ixnay on the oliticspay alktay. Not here, there. I'm not getting paid to write this.

1 comment:

Max Macias said...

Thanks Heidi--I didn't know about this!