Labor Repose

Labor Repose
LaborPayne during her 6th homebirth (9th baby) at age 44

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Unnatural Causes

I've been previewing "Unnatural Causes" This is a video series on the social determinants of health. I'm previewing it for my October class. Most of my students think of health in very simple terms. They tend to think of health as being mainly self-determined, whether or not one exercises, or smokes, or consumes a healthy diet, etc. I want to give them a broader picture of the role of education, economics, housing, social policy, municipal prioritization, market forces, federal state and local political will, societal violence, family structure, culture and so many other factors that impact health that are outside of individual control. This series does an excellent job of presenting a realistic if bleak picture. I can't wait to dialog with my students about these issues and of course how they trickle down to impact maternal, infant, and child health.
I acquired my copy of the video when I attended my monthly Health Commission meeting. I am a Health Commissioner for the city of Kansas City MO, where we discuss issues related citizen health and the city policies that impact it. Good work is done by the commission, and while it has no money to throw at problems, it does have the force of political will in it's recommendations to the city council (that does hold the purse strings). The Health Commission has had a key role in changing the status of the city to virtually smoke free. I spread my time between the women, infant, health committee and the minority health committee, depending on which projects and priorities appeal to me.
All of this is shaping my ideas about my own role in public health in my community. I once thought being a front line clinician was the key to effecting change. Once I was doing it, I saw the gross limitations of delivering care one patient at a time. Then I thought, setting policy was the great savior of humanity until I encountered bureaucracies. Now I try my hand at education with a look to the future of broadening my role in activism. This video series is an excellent tool for creating dialog around vital issues.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Thanks for this post. For sure, we need a broad, ongoing awareness campaign to challenge conventional wisdom that health = health care.

In our work with communities around the country, we have used Unnatural Causes (and other learning/dialogue tools) with a wide diversity of people, organizations and sectors. We have found that even when people initially grasp the idea of social determinants, it is much more difficult to sustain awareness in a way that leads to relevant action.

There is progress, however, when communities come together to discover for themselves what really matters to health and what can be done together to improve it.

We welcome others to join the dialogue on our site (

Rick Brush