Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
UNNATURAL CAUSES ...is inequality making us sick?
Rebroadcast Fridays at 10PM, October 9, 16, 23, 30, 2009. Dates and times may vary. Check local listings.
About the series
Check local listings
Explore & Learn
Share Your Story
Take Action
Buy the DVD
Visit the film and outreach campaign site
Hour 1 Hour 2 Hour 3 Hour 4 Trailer
About the Series
Is inequality making us sick?
Photograph courtesy of Terrol Dew Johnson.
All rights reserved.

This is a story about health, but it’s not about doctors or drugs. It’s about why some of us get sicker more often and die sooner and what causes us to fall ill in the first place.

UNNATURAL CAUSES criss-crosses the country investigating the stories and findings that are shaking up conventional notions about what makes us healthy or sick. It turns out there’s much more to our well-being than genes, behaviors and medical care. The social, economic, and physical environments in which we are born, live and work profoundly affect our longevity and health – as much as smoking, diet and exercise.

The series sheds light on mounting evidence of how lack of access to power and resources can get under the skin and disrupt human biology as surely as germs and viruses. It also reveals a health gradient tied to wealth: those at the top of the class pyramid average longer, healthier lives, while those at the bottom are the most disempowered, get sicker more often and die sooner. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

What's more, at every level, many communities of color are worse off than their white counterparts. Researchers believe that chronic stress over the life course may create an additional health burden for people of color.

Compelling personal stories illustrate obstacles and inequities in society but they also point the way to new possibilities, as individuals and communities organize to gain control over their destinies and their health.

As Harvard epidemiologist David Williams points out in the film, investing in our schools, improving housing, integrating neighborhoods, better jobs and wages, giving people more control over their work – these are as much health strategies as disease prevention and education efforts.

"Real people have problems with their lives as well as with
their organs. Those social problems affect their organs.
In order to improve public health, we need to improve society."

- Sir Michael Marmot, Chair, Commission on the Social Determinants of Health

Produced by
California Newsreel
With Vital Pictures, Inc.
Presented by
the National Minority Consortia
of Public Television
  Privacy & Terms of Use
Contact Us

©2008 California Newsreel