UNNATURAL CAUSES is inequality making us sick? HEALTH EQUITY research topics and resources to learn more
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Learn more about the concepts and stories from the documentary by exploring the case studies below.

Finding Hope for the Future by Reclaiming the Past
SUMMARY: O’odham Indians, living on reservations in southern Arizona, have perhaps the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the world. Forty years of poking and prodding by medical researchers have yielded few improvements, as disease rates continue to rise. But the O’odham and other Native communities are taking matters into their own hands – finding hope for their health by strengthening ties to traditional culture, fighting for their rights, and trying to regain control over their destinies.


TOPICS: chronic stress, race/racism, genetics

Finding Hope for the Future by Reclaiming the Past
Precarious Work

SUMMARY: Extensive research has shown that high demand-low control jobs are a recipe for chronic stress. Globalization and changes in the labor market over the past 30 years have resulted in a dramatic transformation in the nature and conditions of work – complicating our picture of the sources and types of stressors that workers face, as well as subsequent health outcomes and remedies.

RELATED EPISODE: Not Just a Paycheck

TOPICS: jobs, chronic stress, power and control, wealth gap

Precarious Work
In Dependent Solutions - Coming Soon

SUMMARY: A look at the history of the Marshall Islands shows a long chain of colonial occupiers, who each influenced the lives of island residents for better and worse. Since the end of World War II, globalization and the U.S. military presence have turned any vestiges of traditional life upside down. Today, an unequal power relationship keeps the island nation dependent on the U.S., yet Marshall Islanders continue to carve out a unique hybrid existence. Improving living conditions and health outcomes means striking a delicate balance between U.S. interests, island politics and the needs of the Marshallese.

RELATED EPISODE: Collateral Damage

TOPICS: social determinants, diabetes, Pacific Islander, U.S. foreign policy

In Dependent Solutions
Racism, Not Race - COMING SOON

SUMMARY: Most scientists agree that race doesn't exist biologically, yet unequal health outcomes persist among racial groups. How can these be explained? How does a social construction get "under the skin?" Old arguments about innate differences have re-emerged, packaged in the new language of genetics. But while genes matter a great deal for individual health outcomes, they don't explain so-called racial ones. As researchers are beginning to show, the chronic stress of everyday racism may play a critical role in shaping inequities in health.

RELATED EPISODE: When the Bough Breaks

TOPICS: racism, genetics, stress, biology, wealth gap

Racism, Not Race
Fixed Income? - Coming Soon

SUMMARY: Study after study has confirmed the existence of a gradient linking health to wealth. On average, those on the top enjoy healthier, longer lives than those in the middle, while those on the bottom are sickest and die sooner than everyone else. How inevitable are these outcomes? If hierarchy is a natural part of human society, then what can be done to make conditions more equitable? A look at our own history in the U.S. and what other countries have done shows us that inequities are not fixed.

RELATED EPISODE: In Sickness and In Wealth

TOPICS: gradient, income/wealth, class

Fixed Income?
Social Benefits - Coming Soon

SUMMARY: As a group, U.S. Hispanic populations are similar to African Americans in terms of average household income, wealth distribution and people living in poverty, but they have lower occupational status, educational level and medical coverage. Yet Latinos tend to have better health than even white Americans. Recent arrivals have the best outcomes; those who are native born or more acculturated do relatively worse. The same pattern seems to hold true for other immigrant groups. What conditions in America are detrimental to the health of newcomers? Several promising initiatives around the country have been launched to improve work and social conditions for immigrants and glean lessons that can benefit all of us.

RELATED EPISODE: Becoming American

TOPICS: Latino, immigrants, racism, paradox, acculturation

Social Benefits
Asian Americans and Health - Coming Soon

SUMMARY: Lack of data and the heterogeneity of Asian American groups makes it difficult to get a clear picture of health issues in these communities. Some, as recent immigrants, seem to face the same "paradox" and downward trajectory as Latinos; others are confronting problems unique to their histories. Nevertheless, the wellbeing of Asian Americans - like all other groups in the U.S. - is influenced by the social conditions in which they live: wealth and income level, educational status, neighborhood environment and experiences with racism. The range of outcomes within the Asian American population reflects the diversity of resources and opportunities in various communities and the health-promoting and health-constraining circumstances available to them.


TOPICS: Asian American, housing/neighborhoods, wealth, immigrants, racism

Asian Americans and Health - Coming Soon