UNNATURAL CAUSES is inequality making us sick? HEALTH EQUITY research topics and resources to learn more
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Making Health Equity Visible: Results and Recommendations from the Unnatural Causes User Survey

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Method: Conducting the Survey

In Spring 2008, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? was broadcast nationally by PBS and released on DVD by California Newsreel. The four-hour documentary series explores the root causes of America’s alarming class and racial inequities in health. It was conceived as part a larger public engagement campaign to help inject the importance of equity and social justice into discussions of health and to introduce health consequences into debates over social and economic policies.

In December 2008, California Newsreel conducted a web-based survey to better ascertain just how Unnatural Causes was being used as a tool to educate, organize, and advocate for health equity. By then more than 8,000 community dialogs, policy forums, trainings, town hall meetings, and other events designed around screenings of the serieshad been held across the country (at the time of this writing in June 2009, this number exceeds 15,000).

The survey was intended to clarify:

  1. Who is using Unnatural Causes
  2. What types of screening events are being organized
  3. Which audiences are being reached
  4. What kinds of actions and next steps are emerging from screenings

We administered the survey over four weeks using the online tool Survey Monkey. Invitations were sent to several thousand Unnatural Causes e-newsletter subscribers, selected listservs, and California Newsreel’s own database of DVD purchasers. The survey took 20 to 30 minutes to complete. We aimed to collect at least 250 completed surveys, but 789 individuals responded, a surprising number that we believe reflects the enthusiasm of Unnatural Causes users to change the way we address health in the United States.

Clearly, because surveys were collected in a non-randomized fashion, they don’t represent a rigorous, scientific sample of the use and reception of the series. Still, in combination with our own experience, we believe they paint a fairly accurate picture of what organizations are doing and have learned.


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