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.
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About the Series

The reports and articles listed below helped inform the making of this documentary series. Learn more about key concepts and series themes by exploring the resources below.

Document "Enough to Make You Sick?" – article by H. Epstein
Source: New York Times, Oct. 12, 2003

This article looks at the epidemic of premature "aging" and death among the poor. The author explores the question, "Is there something deadly in the American experience of urban poverty itself?"

Document “How racism hurts - literally" – article by Madeline Drexler
Source: Boston Globe, July 15, 2007

This article presents an overview of research on the negative effects of racial inequity on physical health. Studies show that exposure to discrimination causes increases in blood pressure and heart rate, but new research from around the world goes further, using advanced methods to examine how repeated experiences with racism are linked to more severe conditions such as coronary blockages and chronically elevated stress hormone levels.

Document Minority Health Resources Action Kit for Community Leaders
Source: Families USA

This Action Kit provides community leaders with information, tools, and resources to engage in health advocacy and improve the health and well-being of their communities. Sections of the toolkit place emphasis on the importance of public programs in reducing racial and ethnic health disparities.

Document Overcoming Obstacles to Health: Report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the Commission to Build a Healthier America (PDF)
Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2008
(Note: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a funder of this series)

This report, written in conjunction with the launch of the foundation’s new Commission to Build a Healthier America, describes in stark detail the scope of health disparities in America – how the poor and middle class are so much less healthy than those above them on the economic ladder, the factors in our society and communities that contribute to such disparities, and the areas that hold promise for improving the health of this country.

Document Racial Residential Segregation: A Fundamental Cause of Racial Disparities in Health
Source: David R. Williams, PhD, MPH and Chiquita Collins, PhD, Public Health Reports, September-October 2001, Volume 116, pg 404-416
The authors review evidence suggesting that segregation is a primary cause of racial differences in socioeconomic status (SES) because it determines access to education and employment opportunities. SES in turn remains a fundamental cause of racial differences in health. Segregation also creates conditions inimical to health in the social and physical environment. The authors conclude that effective efforts to eliminate racial disparities in health must seriously confront segregation and its pervasive consequences.

Document Reaching for a Healthier Life: Facts on Socio-Economic Status in the U.S. (PDF)
Source: MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, 2007
(Note: The MacArthur Foundation is a funder of this series)

How does your position on the class pyramid affect your health? This excellent overview details the impact of neighborhoods, employment conditions, personal behaviors, health care, race and stress on well-being and life expectancy, and includes policy suggestions. The MacArthur Network includes many of the world’s top researchers on SES and health, many of whom were interviewed for the series.

Document The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity
Source: Michael Marmot, 2004. New York, NY: Henry Holt

Michael Marmot, advisor to the World Health Organization and one of the premiere scholars on social determinant of health, presents the results of his own 30-year study into the effects of class on health, together with a comprehensive overview of current theory and research. He points out that autonomy and control are critical to one’s ability to lead a long, productive life.

Document Tackling Health Inequities through Public Health Practice: A Handbook for Action (PDF)
Source: Richard Hofrichter, editor. National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Available as a free pdf download, this collection of articles offers ideas, insights, and questions to help local health departments strengthen their capacity and more effectively attack the root causes of health inequities. Case studies highlight innovative approaches and a conceptual framework grounds understanding within a community-based, social justice perspective.

Document Undoing Racism in Public Health: A Blueprint for Action in Urban MCH
Source: Special Report to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, CityMatCH, 2004
(Note: the Kellogg Foundation is a funder of this series)
This report examines racism as a determinant of health status and health disparities, demonstrates how institutional racism manifests in health care and health departments; provides an overview of existing directions, options and resources for "Undoing Racism," and outlines a series of anti-racist activities for local public health departments.

Document Why Place Matters: Building a Movement for Healthy Communities (PDF)
Source: PolicyLink, 2007

What makes a community healthy or unhealthy? This report explains how the economic, social, and physical structure of environments shapes access to resources, power, opportunities, and consequently, health. The report also highlights some promising community-based initiatives.

Visit the official UNNATURAL CAUSES film and campaign site for more educational materials and resources.

Produced by
California Newsreel
With Vital Pictures, Inc.
Presented by
the National Minority Consortia
of Public Television
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