Friday, March 14, 2008

Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

As you may know, your's truly is currently pursuing his doctorate in clinical social work. In the past few months I've gotten really interested in the research on racial/ethnic disparities in health one of the strongest forms of evidence (for those who need it) that race and ethnicity still matter in America. On March 27th, a documentary called "Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?" will be shown on PBS. Folks, everyone in America (and definitely every Baha'i in America) needs to watch this. I've been fortunate enough to view some advance screenings and it's very powerful. Tell everyone you know about it and make sure to watch. If you can't watch it at the time, tape it for later. Actually don't just watch, talk with people about it. It might literally save someone's life. Here's a bit from the website for the documentary:

“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, WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health
Experts of all political stripes agree: our medical system is strained to the breaking point. We spend almost twice per person on health care what any other nation spends – almost $2 trillion a year. Yet American life expectancy ranks 29th in the world. For infant mortality, Slovenia and Cuba do better. Almost one third of Americans are obese, and chronic illness costs American businesses $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
As we pour more and more money into drugs, dietary supplements, and new medical technologies, a growing body of research indicates that the key to America’s well-being may be much simpler – and more complex – than one might expect. While conventional health strategies focus on bad habits, poor medical care and unlucky genes, it turns out the biggest health secret of all is how social conditions – the circumstances into which we are born, live and work – profoundly affect our chances for a healthy life or an early death.
It's not just the poor who are sicker but the middle class as well. Research has also revealed a gradient to health. At each descending step on our socio-economic ladder, people tend to be sicker and die sooner. Top executives have, on average, better health than managers, managers fare better than technical personnel and supervisors, supervisors do better than production, service and clerical workers, and so on down the line. Americans who haven’t graduated from high school die at two to three times the rate of college graduates.
Yet at each socio-economic level, African Americans, on average, are worse off than their white counterparts. In many cases, so are other communities of color. And the mortality gap has not narrowed. African Americans live on average almost six years less than white Americans; among Native Americans and Latinos, the prevalence of diabetes is 100% higher than among white Americans. Read the whole statement here.

"Justice is in this Day bewailing its plight and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression."