What connections exist between healthy bodies, healthy bank accounts, and skin color? Four individuals from different walks of life demonstrate how one’s position in society – shaped by social policies and public priorities – affects health.
“In Sickness and In Wealth” travels to Louisville, Kentucky, not to examine health care but to discover what makes us sick in the first place. The lives of a CEO, lab supervisor, janitor and unemployed mother illustrate how social class shapes access to power, resources and opportunity, resulting in a health-wealth gradient. On average, people at the top live longer, healthier lives. Those at the bottom are more disempowered, get sicker more often and die sooner. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
Louisville Metro maps reveal 5- and 10-year gaps in life expectancy between the city’s rich, middle- and working-class neighborhoods. Experiments with monkeys and humans shed light on chronic stress as one culprit.
We also see how racial inequality imposes an additional risk burden on people of color. Solutions being pursued in Louisville and elsewhere focus not on more pills but on more equitable social policies.