(Los Angels, Calif.) Blacks receive far less adequate mental health treatment in California than whites and this discrepancy will continue until the state’s mental health system embarks on some culturally congruent changes, according to a state-commissioned report released Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“It is unpleasant to admit, but many African Americans do not receive appropriate mental health services, even when they go to places that are suppose to help them,’’ said V. Diane Woods,Dr.P.H., director and lead investigator of the California Reducing Disparities project (CRDP) for the African American population, We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System: Pathways into the Black Population for Eliminating Mental Health Disparities.
The report was commissioned by the California Department of Mental Health and is the California Reducing Disparities Project for the African American Population. Its primary goal is to paint a clearer picture of the state’s mental health system as it relates to the African American community, Woods said.
Event slide show
As a fact-finding approach, the report’s investigators initiated 35 focus groups, 45 individual interviews, 635 surveys, and nearly a dozen public forums throughout the state of California to collect data on African American’s opinions on what practices promote good mental health in the community. Investigators also compiled and analyzed data and literature by African American experts throughout the country on mental health and social issues.
Nicelma J. King, a public policy analyst and one of the principal investigators on the study, said lack of knowledge about mental health, coupled with poverty, fragmented families, stigma associated with mental health, and a need for culturally proficient providers are some barriers to treatment in the Black community.
“Most of us know when we fall out of a tree and break our arm we go to the hospital. But most of us (Blacks) don’t know where to go when we’re severely anxious or depressed, or we are around someone who is severely anxious or depressed,’’ she said. “We (Blacks) don’t know what the response ought to be. We won’t have change in mental health in our community until people know where to go to see about these problems.”
Based on the community’s responses, investigators created a list of 274 different recommendations for addressing mental health disparities in California.
The recommendations include developing programs to help build resilience, especially among youth; supporting community agencies, clergy and families as first responders; developing mobile mental health centers; and require cultural proficiency training by mental health providers. The report also calls for establishing community based oversight commissions to ensure providers are knowledgeable on handling patients of different races and work with the mentalHealth Services Oversight and Accountability Commission.
“We need to get this to the governor’s level; we need a commission to get this information out,’’ an impassioned Virniecia Green-Jordan, president of the Perris Elementary School District in Perris, Calif., said during Tuesday’s conference. “We need some legislation to bring it to another level.’’
Woods said the next step is to start devising a statewide strategic plan, which will begin this fall.
“We are setting the political agenda, from your opinion, what types of policies need to be in place for ethnic populations to get the services they need and to implement the recommendations,’’ she said.
For a copy of the report go to http://www.aahi-sbc.org/. To comment or become a part of the change contact Dr. Ron Chapman, MD, MPH, director and state health officer, California Department of Public Health (916) 558-1700.
A copy of the final report and supporting documentation can be downloded for the next eight days at this address:
If the above link is not clickable, copy and paste the link into a browser to download your file.
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The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County was awarded the State contract to conduct the 2-year long study. They will release a full report as well as FREE resources during a statewide Town Hall meeting, a workshop and press conference on Tuesday July 17, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel. The press conference is at 1:00 p.m. This is a PUBLIC meeting. All are invited to attend. The meeting is FREE and no prior reservation is needed. For more information call (909) 880-2600, or Dr. Woods at (951) 201-4364. The shocking complete report will be distributed at the July 17th meeting.
“It is unpleasant to admit, but many African Americans do not receive appropriate mental health services, even when they go to places that are suppose to help them. Why is that?” reports Dr. V. Diane Woods, Dr.P.H.
(Los Angeles, Calf: July 2012) All people in California suffer from not receiving mental health services in a timely manner. Some people suffer more than others, especially if you are poor, less educated, and do not know what to do or where to go.
“In addition, having a mental issue is embarrassing. Most people do not recognize when they need help, and when they do, most people do not feel comfortable in asking for help with a mental issue,” said Dr. V. Diane Woods, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., B.S.N., president of the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC).
Dr. Woods is the principal investigator, for a statewide team of Black strategic planning workgroup members tasked to develop a major statewide policy initiative to improve access and quality of care, as well as increase positive outcomes for historically underserved communities and ethnic and cultural population groups.
The research was contracted to AAHI-SBC through The California Department of Mental Health (DMH), in partnership with the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) and funded by the Mental Health Service Act, Prop 63.
AAHI-SBC is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 grassroots community-based organization. It was awarded the $411,052 contract to conduct the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) for the African American population. Funds were made possible by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) of 2004. The contract period was for two years, from March 1, 2010 to February 29, 2012.
This statewide initiative was called the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP), and focused on five (5) populations that have the largest number of underserved individuals. Those populations were:
- African Americans
- Asian/Pacific Islanders
- Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ)
- Native Americans
When it comes to African Americans and mental health issues in California, Helen B. Rucker probably explains it best.
“I should have been in counseling a long time ago,’’ says Rucker, a 79-year-old Monterey County community activist and county school board member about California’s fragmented mental health system supporting African Americans. “I wish I had access to talk to someone about how I feel. But, there has never been anyone I could talk to who understood what I was going through.”
Rucker epitomizes what was unraveled during a two-year study looking at mental health issues in ethnic and cultural populations in California.
“It is unpleasant to admit, but some people do not receive appropriate services, even when they go to places that are suppose to help them. Why is that? Why are some people not understood? California’s African American residents were interviewed and given the opportunity to share their real experiences with getting help with mental issues,” said Dr. Woods.
“We Ain’t Crazy! Just Coping with a Crazy System: Pathways to Eliminating Mental Health Disparities in the Black Population,” is the comprehensive report of this 2-year long African American study that sought to answer one major question: What are community practices Black people believe would help them have good mental health? As well as, how are mental issues prevented from occurring in Black people?”
“There were 1,195 individuals who participated in the African American study. Community-based participatory research methods were used that included 15 key informant interviews, 35 focus group meetings, 43 one-on-one interviews, 635 surveys, 5 case studies, 6 small group meetings and 10 public meetings. Individuals participated from over 30 California counties,” said Dr. V. Diane Woods, the Project Director and lead investigator.
Dr. V. Diane Woods and The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County will release a full report, as well as FREE resources during a statewide convening that include a workshop a workshop, a Town Hall meeting, and a press conference on Tuesday July 17, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel.
The investigation found that while California has a mental health system in place, its fragmented delivery system exposes African Americans to inappropriate and or inadequate diagnoses, and initiates a high rate of involuntary commitments within this population. Many individuals are placed on medications that may not help their condition but make it worse. And, many African Americans state they do not have prevention services or programs in their communities. If prevention services are there, they are not visible or accessible to the African American population.
Overwhelmingly, Blacks stated they were not properly assessed, said Dr. Woods. “Participants believe that diagnoses given were not correct, which caused the treatment and medications given inappropriate.” People felt the medication made them “act crazy.” A major concern was a lack of Black providers. People felt providers seen did not understand their experiences and the psychological and emotional impact on their physical and mental health.
“During the study, it was discovered that there are community-based programs and projects that help African Americans have balanced lives and help them to learn how to cope with threatening mental issues. However, African Americans are not aware of these community programs projects, or where to find an African American mental health provider. Many participants were not early signs of mental issues,” said Dr. Woods.
The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County will release a full report, as well as FREE resources during a statewide convening that include a workshop a workshop, a Town Hall meeting, and a press conference on Tuesday July 17, 2012 from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel. The press conference is scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m.
This state wide meeting is held collaboration with The Annual International convention of the Association of Black psychologists
This is a PUBLIC meeting. All are invited to attend. The meeting is FREE and no prior reservation is needed. For more information call (909) 880-2600, or Dr. Woods at (951) 201-4364.
The shocking complete report will be distributed at the July 17th meeting. California African American state Assemblymembers, Senators and Congressional representatives are invited to attend.
Dr. Woods is an experienced public health community-based participatory researcher and executive administrator in acute and non-acute clinical healthcare, health education and counseling.
About The African American Health Institute (AAHI)
The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County, is a non-profit 501c3 grassroots community-based organization. It was awarded a $411,052 contract to conduct the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP) for the African American population. Funds were made possible by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) of 2004. Contract period was for two years, from March 1, 2010 to February 29, 2012.
The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County can be reached at P.O. Box 12083, San Bernardino, CA 92423 or by calling (909) 880-2600, or visit their website at www.AAHI-SBC.org.
AAHI Committee members Patricia Green, president of BASIA; unknown community member; Jose Marquez, formerly with the California Endowment; Linda Hart, community member
AAHI Committee members from 2004 left to right: Dr. Robert Fick, representative for the Elks; Kim Carter, president Time for Change; Joyce Fairman, and Carl Dameron, president Dameron Communications with Diane Woods in the back row.
Diane Woods, AAHI president, at AAHI San Bernardino presentation in 2005.
(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC) will celebrate its last seven years of progress in efforts to reduce health and healthcare disparities in Black communities of the Inland Empire.
The celebration of “Our Past, Present & Future,” takes place in the Henderson Auditorium of San Bernardino Community Hospital, 1800 Western Ave., from 5:30 to 7:30pm., Thursday, October 22. For details call (909) 880-2600 or visit www.AAHI-SBC.org . All are welcomed to attend.
Black churches have had outreach health ministries in the Inland Empire for more than 50 years. Dr. Temetry Lindsey founded the Inland Behavioral Health more than 30 years ago, Dr. V.Diane Woods pointed out. And Gwen Knotts founded Knotts Family Agency shortly after that.
The local branch of the California Black Health Network, in conjunction with the Black newspapers, radio talk shows, and civic organizations, as well as the Inland Empire Black Nurses Association and ethnic physicians of the J W Vines Medical Society have always worked on health issues in the Inland Empire.
More African Americans die from the leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS and other preventable conditions than any other group. Even African American babies die two to three times more often than other babies.
“Simply put African American males die at an average age of 56, and African American females die at an average age of 62,” said Dr. Woods.
Community leaders who were concerned about this disparity organized the African American Health Initiative in 1998, working with the San Bernardino County Medical Society. In 2003, the Medical Society hired Dr. Woods to head a major countywide planning project for the African American Health Initiative (AAHI).
In 2004, the organization held public forums, conducted surveys, town hall meetings, and one-on-one interviews throughout San Bernardino County; gathering data from more than 1,000 local Black residents investigating why people of African ancestry continue to die much earlier than other ethnic groups; and, to identify what will work to reverse this trend.
“Much has been accomplished since we started the health planning project in 2003,” said Dr. Woods, founding president and CEO of AAHI-SBC. “We are celebrating successful positive milestones in Black community collaboration.”
As a result of the AAHI Planning Project, a comprehensive report was developed in 2004 called Voices of the People: An Afrocentric Plan for Better Health. Nine major recommendations were proposed.
Recommendation #3 was to create a credible collaborative to focus on African American health issues. Afterwards, the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC) was created and incorporated as a collaborative of concerned stakeholders in January 2006 to combat these issues.
Since then, AAHI-SBC has strongly promoted change in the healthcare system through advocacy, public education, community capacity building, and research.
Since 2006, AAHI-SBC has been awarded more than a million dollars to work on health issues. Two recent awards include the California African American Initiative Statewide: HEROICs from the Department of Managed Care Office of the Patient Advocate (OPA) for $149,600; and the California Department of Mental Health Statewide Reducing Disparity Project for African Americans for $411,000.
“The African American community’s most desperate need is capacity,” Dr. Woods explained. “Capacity means having significant funds, dedicated individuals working full-time on complex, multiple problems and solutions, the ability to respond in a timely manner, and suitable facilities and infrastructure to implement appropriate interventions.
“Tremendous efforts on multiple fronts to improve the health delivery system, individual health, and in changing health policies, must be sustained,” said Dr. Woods. “In this era of national change to improve health and healthcare outcomes, seven years seems like an appointed time to celebrate good things done by our local Blacks in our communities. When we remember where we have come from, and celebrate the progress we have made with our eyes steadfast on the future it brings hope. We need a good dose of hope and encouragement every now and then, it’s good for the heart and spirit of a people.”
About the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County
AAHI-SBC is a community-based resource focused solely on improving health among Americans of African ancestry, the poor and under-represented (URM) ethnic minorities in the Inland Empire. Visit www.AAHI-SBC.org to learn more about what self-help groups and others are doing to improve the condition of Blacks. You will also find the history of AAHI-SBC, an extensive list of partners, and activities underway.
A few years ago, Black men in San Bernardino County died at an average age of 56, Black women at an average age of 63. White people in the county lived an average of 13 years longer. The African-American Health Institute has worked to decrease this disparity and will present some of its efforts at a national conference in San Diego this October.
(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) A veteran of 35 years in the public health arena, Dr. V. Diane Woods, and other community partners within the African-American Health Institute will present results and follow-up interventions of the African American Health Planning Project of San Bernardino County at the 136th Annual Meeting & Exposition of the American Public Health Association in October.
Dr. Woods is the president and CEO of African-American Health Institute of San Bernardino County. She is also the assistant research psychologist in the psychology department of the University of California, Riverside.
“For Americans of African ancestry,” Woods cites, “there is a disproportionately higher mortality rate across all preventable health conditions. In San Bernardino County alone the average age at death for the Black population is 59 years.” One reason she points out is a lack of significant investment and “political will” of the County Supervisors to aggressively address health issues of local residents. One glaring deficit is the lack of significant funds going to Black owned community-based organizations working on health issues within their communities.
“You know the cliché,” she says: “Blacks don’t care about health concerns. It’s a myth. A similar impression carries over to Latinos and Native Americans, as well.
Look at it this way. In our county we have community groups and organizations doing what they can with limited money. These organizations start with their personal resources, donations from the churches, and a few dollars from different sponsors but not enough money to sustain programs that matter to their people. They cannot hire and pay people a decent wage to keep programs going for a long period of time. These Black organizations are doing what they can to help others, not just only Black folks.”
“Data from the AAHI Planning Project (funded by The California Endowment) indicated 78.9 percent of the Black population in the study had health insurance coverage with 60 percent having their own physicians. This type of findings also dispelled a common myth that Blacks do not have insurance. Woods has used the findings from the planning project to work with the community on nine strategic recommendations to change the poor health outcomes of Blacks.
Woods’ and the community partners’ presentation will share ways they work together to address health issues with the Black population, as well as other ethnic minorities.
The theme for this five-day meeting and exposition of national public health professionals is Public Health Without Borders.
The APHA meeting and exposition is the oldest and largest gathering of public health professionals in the world. It attracts more than 15,000 national and international physicians, administrators, nurses, educators, researchers and other related health specialists. As the APHA executives say, “The world of public health is in continual motion, and there is no better time to stay abreast of the research and learn about emerging issues.”
Dr. Woods and colleagues will present six sessions, which are “We The People – Champions for Policy Change” (with Katie Greene, health policy analyst for AAHI ); “Invisible Bars – Barriers to Women’s Health During and After Incarceration” (with Kim Carter, CEO and founder of Time For Change Foundation); “Engaging Community for Structural Changes to Eliminate Critical Public Health Social Epidemics in America and the Bahamas” (with Dr. Robin Roberts, of the Medical Society of the Bahamas); “Utilizing Community Participatory Research Methods to Document Women’s Health Issues in Prison” (with Kim Carter and Disep Ojukwu, a statistician for the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health); “Epidemiological Modeling of Interventions for Women in Prison” (with Kim Carter); and “Creating a Community Driven Policy Advocacy Infrastructure to Address Ethnic Health Disparities” (with Katie Green.)
The nearly 80 conference proceedings and more than a thousand sessions will span information technology, health law, women’s issues, community research, pubic health education, gay and lesbian issues, human rights concerns, maternal and children’s health, school health education, numerous government-related topics, emergent public health issues, and matters concerning all people, especially American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.
More than 700 numerous organizations’ booths will be on hand, for information and distributing free materials. Public Health students are strongly encouraged to attend. The African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County, of which Woods is CEO and president, will have its own in the Public Health Expo booth. She says, “We’ll be displaying material from our various collaborative partners and participating community stakeholders.”
The American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Exposition runs from October 25 through 29 at the Convention Center in San Diego. The public is welcome, with a reduced fee for admission.
For further details on all aspects of the event, call (909) 880-2600.
About the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County
AAHI-SBC is a community-based resource focused solely on improving health among Americans of African ancestry, the poor and under-represented (URM) ethnic minorities in the Inland Empire. Please visit our Web Site at www.AAHI-SBC.org and learn more about what self-help groups and others are doing to improve the conditions of Blacks. You will also find the history of AAHI-SBC, an extensive list of partners, and activities underway.
(SAN BERNARDINO, California) Blacks in the Inland Empire live with environmental stresses that could have serious consequences for their health, including premature death.
Dr. V. Diane Woods, founding president and CEO of the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County, has tried to persuade people of this for years. Dr. Woods designed the cheap HCG and conducted a countywide health planning project from 2003 to 2005, funded by The California Endowment, called the African American Health Initiative Planning Project.
The study was to investigate from the perspective of Americans of African ancestry in San Bernardino County why they have the poorest health outcomes of all ethnic groups. More African Americans die from the leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and HIV/AIDS than any other group. Even African American infants die two to three times more often than other infants.
Statistics for San Bernardino County show that Americans of African ancestry die 13 years earlier than Whites. “Simply put African American males die at an average age of 56, and African American females die at an average age of 62,” said Dr. Woods. Since then, the African American Health Institute was created in January 2006, and has been working to combat this statistic.
Now, two documentary filmmakers, Larry Adleman and Llew Smith, have taken a look at health data affecting all races from across the country. The result of the filmmakers’ investigation, a four-part series called Unnatural Causes, airs soon on the PBS network.
Unnatural Causes concludes that lower incomes, racism and other external stresses put people at the greatest risk of health problems. These causes that are outside of a person, and can’t easily be changed by one’s own initiative, are more likely than biology or bad choices to make a person sick.
San Bernardino affiliate KVCR is scheduled to show the documentary starting July 2, and air at 8 p.m. July 9, July 16 and July 23.
“What I like about this series is we have collected our local data. Our results overwhelmingly point to multiple factors in San Bernardino County other than biology and bad choices that lead to persistent trends of premature death for Americans of African ancestry,” said Dr. Woods. “Now public health experts across America support our findings with mounting scientific evidence. Our local situation mirrors the nationwide situation.”
Dr. Woods learned of this film in 2006, and immediately signed the African American Health Institute to be a partner organization with the filmmakers. Many health care organizations in the country have joined this partnership, as have national organizations such as the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and the American Public Health Association (APHA). The complete list can be viewed at www.unnaturalcauses.org.
As one of the partner organizations, the African American Health Institute held a preview screening of the documentary on Thursday, April 20 at the Norman C. Feldheym Library in San Bernardino. The segment Dr. Woods chose to preview shows how environmental changes over the 20th Century led to a high increase in diabetes and other health problems among two Native American tribes, the Tohonos and the Pimas, on reservations in Arizona.
At the preview, Dr. Woods discussed concerns both the series and her organization have raised. There are similarities between the health problems of the Native Americans now living on reservations, and those of Blacks living in the Inland Empire, she said.
Historically, the Native Americans in Arizona lived off their land, the Tohonos eating native vegetation that grew abundantly and the Pimas developing an elaborate irrigation system to draw water from a nearby river for their crops. Both tribes ate healthy and got lots of exercise. There was absolutely no diabetes among them during this time.
But starting in about 1890, White settlers in Arizona had increased the demand for water so much, the river by the Pimas had run dry and the Tohono’s area was a desert wasteland. A dam built during the Calvin Coolidge administration promised more water for the Pimas, but they saw very little. Instead, because of overt discrimination practiced then, most of that water was diverted to resorts, golf courses and wealthy Whites-only suburbs.
“This is a part of the sad history of America,” said Woods. “The ultimate travesty is that most people do not stop to think about the physical and mental devastation this environmental change has brought to a proud, self-sufficient people, the Native Americans.”
The Native Americans, stripped of their livelihood, had to rely on surplus commodities distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Usually these commodities are white flour, cheese, lard or other fats, and canned food. “Not foods for a healthy diet,” Woods said.
The video points out that while “fry bread” is now regarded as traditional Native American cuisine, it is not. It is what the early 20th Century Arizonans living on the reservations often made with their commodities, which was all they had. Their typical diet was much healthier.
“Here in the 21st Century Inland Empire, some Americans of African ancestry also rely on USDA surplus commodities to put food on their table,” Dr. Woods said. “African people were brought to America against their will. They were stripped of their dignity and treated lower than animals. The mental and physiological damage done to Americans of African ancestry is unspeakable. Even today, our people are led to believe that our culture is unhealthy, and bad, which is not true.”
“Think about the potlucks we have after church,” she said. “These social gatherings represent collective energy for positive fellowship, nurturing of our young, encouragement for the struggling, and general support for good will, honesty and integrity. This is the core of the African village, a fundamental premise for the health of Americans of African ancestry.”
Most Inland Empire residents suffer from a lack of exercise, Dr. Woods said. Some live in neighborhoods that aren’t safe for children to play outdoors. And others live in newer suburbs, that while safer; still have only small front and back yards, and almost no space between homes.
“This crowded condition tends to herd people together. When the African American family gathers it is often in large open spaces, such as the back yard at a relative’s home. We are a people of movement, energy, and laughter. We enjoy family gatherings. We love people to people interaction. We like space. Mentally, the new environmental changes and housing developments in the Inland Empire tend to be stressful. They take away space.
“Continual stress and negativism are environmental factors that put Black people at even greater health risk than bad diets and lack of exercise, as was demonstrated in Unnatural Causes,” Woods said. “The stress factor has been documented in scientific studies as a killer.”
While overt race-based discrimination has been illegal for more than 40 years, many Black people grew up with that oppression and still live with these covert factors, which causes ongoing accumulated stress.
“For instance, some people with rental homes will turn a Black person’s application down even though the home is vacant,” Dr. Woods said. “Likewise, some mortgage companies will invent reasons to deny a “prime” loan, or any loan to a Black person, or give high interest loans instead of lower interest loans.”
“Another way Blacks are discriminated against,” Dr. Woods said, “is in health and healthcare. Within the last five years inequities against Blacks, the poor and under-represented minorities (URM) have been overwhelmingly documented in the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) report, studies by RAND, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and many other scientific academies.”
As a health professional, she has often seen Blacks wait a long time for their doctors and insurance companies to approve a necessary surgery or treatment, while Whites with the same insurance coverage and same health provider obtain the necessary care quickly. “This is a case of inequity and unequal treatment, not inferior providers or a lack of insurance,” Woods @Lasik New York said.
This type of stress is created for poor people, irrespective of ethnicity. The results are still the same, sickness or death. This is why everyone should view the PBS series Unnatural Causes. “We as health professionals need to target root causes of premature death and poor health outcomes in our society. We need to use our scarce money and human resources to change what is wrong in our society. And, what is terribly wrong are stress factors,” Woods said.
As Dr. Woods has been saying for several years, these risk factors create an intolerable situation.
“At this point in America, and other places around the world we are in a crisis, a global crisis,” she said. “A crisis requires an aggressive approach and we at AAHI-SBC are committed to following through with what is needed and to work with anyone who truly wishes to eradicate root causes for poor health outcomes.”
What San Bernardino County needs to do most of all, she said, is commit significant money to preventative health and healthcare. We need major change. We need to stop making excuses and stop trying to look good.
“Our County needs to give money and support to those community organizations that are truly working with their people. Organizations need to demonstrate with hard facts that they are working directly with people who need the help. Our County needs to stop using ‘token’ responses to life and death issues. Our County decision-makers need to stop playing with the lives of people they are responsible for protecting and preserving their health. We need to get about the business of not maintaining the “status quo.”
“Our County decision-makers can not afford to casually look the other way, or ‘play make believe,’ or pretend to create elaborate ‘less than honorable’ attempts in addressing serious societal issues, when people are dying needlessly from preventable conditions. Our County leadership needs to move aggressively ahead and get about the business of investing money and people power into saving lives of all people, and preventing one more needless death not just saving the lives of the chosen few,” said Dr. Woods.
She hopes the Unnatural Causes PBS national series will prick the “moral conscious” and further convince local policy-makers and decision-makers in the health industry of this need. “This is not a time to “just” stay in business but, to change for the good of the people, or we will all be dead shortly. Unfortunately, when death touches your family, the sting is great. The recovery is slow.”
“Unnatural Causes is not a feel-good production,” she said. “It is not entertainment, as usual. It is about a national movement forward to tear down false ideologies, and build up systems in America that will be fair, just, and equal for all. Unnatural Causes is about saving lives of Americans.”
The first episode is entitled In Sickness and In Wealth and it will air on Wednesday July 2 at 8pm on KVCR channel 24. This episode will address as to why some of us become sick more frequently than others, as well as why some die sooner.
The second airing, Wednesday July 9 at 8pm on KVCR channel 24, will show two twenty-five minute episodes entitled: When the Bough Breaks and Becoming American. The first twenty-five minutes segment, episode two, will focuses on: infant morality rates among African Americans that remain twice as high as that of white Americans, as well as investigate possible causes researchers determine add to the burden of racism as a long term-risk factor.
The third episode showing within the second airing will focus on recent Mexican immigrants and their tendency to be healthier than the average American. The longer they are here, however, the worse their health becomes, even as their socio-economic status improves. This is “Hispanic Paradox,” places their children at high risk for obesity, heart disease and mental illness.
The fourth episode, entitled Bad Sugar, will air July 16 at 8pm on KVCR channel 24 and will provide viewers with an in-depth look at the Pima and Tohono O’odham Indians of southern Arizona, which are marked with the distinction of perhaps the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the world.
The fifth episode, which will also be air July 16 at 8pm on KVCR channel 24, entitled Place Matters, tells of recent Southeast Asian immigrants, along with Latinos, increasingly moving into what have been neglected black urban neighborhoods and how their health is now being eroded.
The final airing of Unnatural Causes, showing July 23 at 8pm on KVCR channel 24, will include the sixth and seventh episodes. The sixth episode, Collateral Damage, will follow patterns of uneven development that mark the Pacific Islands and diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney diseases and tuberculosis. These diseases are taking a growing toll on Pacific Islander populations.
For more information about AAHI, please call us at (909) 880-2600.
About the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC)
AAHI-SBC is a community-based resource focused solely on improving health among Americans of African ancestry, the poor and under-represented (URM) ethnic minorities in the Inland Empire. Please visit our Web Site at www.AAHI-SBC.org and learn more about what self-help groups and others are doing to improve the conditions of Blacks. You will also find the history of AAHI-SBC, an extensive list of partners, and activities underway.
(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) Larry Adleman and Llew Smith are what some would call “A scientist’s nightmare”, which is someone proving them they’re wrong. These two men are film-makers of the PBS Series Unnatural Causes which discusses issues like “Is inequality making us sick?”. On Thursday, March 20th, from noon to 1:00pm, community leaders, business leaders, and media will gather at the Norman F. Feldheym Central Library for the video launch of their highly anticipated four part series presented by the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County.
The series itself is scheduled to air on Los Angeles PBS affiliate KCET four consecutive Sundays beginning April 6. Times are 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 6, 13 and 2, and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. April 20.
San Bernardino PBS affiliate KVCR has tentatively scheduled the series to begin July 8, and air at 9 p.m. July 8, July 15, July 22 and July 29.
What inspired UNNATURAL CAUSES? Where did the process begin and where did it take you?
Larry Adelman: The seed was planted several years ago when we were making RACE – The Power of an Illusion, a series that explored popular myths and misconceptions about race. We found out that African Americans have one of the highest hypertension rates in the world. The knee-jerk hypothesis among some scientists was that this had something to do with genes, but that idea was exploded by research showing that West Africans (whose ancestors are shared by many African Americans) enjoy one of the lowest hypertension rates in the world. Instead of some mythical genetic variant, the real culprit behind these high blood pressure rates is more likely rooted in the stresses of everyday life particular to the African American experience, i.e., racism. That’s when we first realized how the “outside” – our social and economic environment – could get under our skin and disrupt our biology as surely as germs and viruses.
As the RACE series screened around the country, folks brought to our attention literally hundreds of studies and journal articles describing the many pathways by which class and racism influence health outcomes as surely as diet, smoking and exercise do. And we learned that it isn’t just African Americans or the poor leading sicker, shorter lives because of inequality, but white, middle class Americans, too.
Llew Smith: This series led us to go further than exploding myths. The journey of UNNATURAL CAUSES took us to deconstructing our very ideas about health in society. Many believe that being healthy is as simple as making smart choices: exercising, eating well, taking a vacation every so often to reduce stress, having networks to support us and so on. But behaviors explain only part of the story. When we look at populations and entire communities, you begin to see that there are larger forces at work beyond what an individual can control. That led us to the growing research focused on “social determinants of health” and “health equity.”
One of the most exciting things about making this series has been bringing the data to life through the health experiences of real people and real communities. The stories and individuals our producers have captured on camera are just stunning, remarkable, moving. It’s a much more emotional series than I thought we’d create. While the science is the critical underpinning, UNNATURAL CAUSES is at its core a collection of powerful stories about people and communities struggling to better their health.
Share the meaning of UNNATURAL CAUSES as a title.
LA: We must have argued over a dozen titles before Jean Cheng, our series Website producer, suggested UNNATURAL CAUSES. It fit perfectly. As Nancy Krieger, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, cautions in our film, “It’s not as if we won’t die. We all die. The question is: at what age? With what degree of suffering? With what degree of preventable illness?”
We understand that all our organs eventually wear out. That’s natural. But what’s unnatural? If your heart wears out faster because you work two jobs that don’t pay enough to survive and you always have to worry about being let go; if your kid has asthma because we’ve allowed oil refineries to pollute the air and not forced landlords to keep their premises free of cockroaches and mold; if you get fat because you spend two hours commuting, there are no grocery stores nearby and the easiest meal is fast food; if your blood pressure is high because you don’t feel safe in your neighborhood and are worried about what might happen to your kids but can’t afford to move…none of those are natural causes.
LS: For me, the title underscores an essential theme that runs throughout the entire four hours of the series: that the profound inequalities in health all around us – if we just stop and look – are not accidental or inevitable. As one of our series’ experts David Williams says, “These are not acts of God, and they don’t happen by chance.” They result largely from policy decisions we’ve made, and we can certainly unmake them if we had the political will.
The title also suggests a crime scene-type investigation. That’s what our series does, in an interesting way. It’s an inquiry into the reasons why some neighborhoods have better overall health than others; why some populations live longer than others. For most people, the first solution that comes to mind is better access to health care. This is addressed in the first few minutes of the opening episode, entitled “In Sickness and In Wealth.” The program makes clear that while access to health care is absolutely critical – and it’s shocking that we’re the only industrialized nation without universal health care – the lack of health care in and of itself is not the cause of illness and disease. The answers lie in other factors in society.
Who are your partners and supporters of this project?
LA: What makes this work exciting to us – and more expansive than content confined
to a television screen – is its value to those already working to improve Americans’ health. The series taps into a vibrant movement of public health advocates, community activists and policy experts who are not only spotlighting the root causes of our health inequities but also advancing solutions. This project is truly collaborative. It did not begin with the production nor will it end with the broadcast. Relationships with key partners were built before the first treatment was even written. The series, a public engagement campaign and accompanying tools have been developed in tandem with health equity initiatives led by the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Praxis Project, PolicyLink, the Prevention Institute and others. Joined by other partners across the country, they will utilize the series and companion tools to reframe the public debate over what we as a nation can and should do to tackle health inequities.
LS: The ultimate value of the series will be determined by how effectively it helps the several hundred partners using it. Our media partnerships are also important because they not only embraced the highest standards of filmmaking and programming excellence, but they brought to the table the racial and ethnic diversity that is a cornerstone of our message. Thanks to the National Minority Consortia of public television, the series was shot with a unique team of Native American, African American, white, Asian American, Pacific Islander and Latino producers.
How have viewers reacted to work-in-progress cuts of the documentary?
How have people reacted to the overall message of the film series?
LA: We screened work-in-progress clips at dozens of meetings and conferences and got invaluable feedback. Reactions fell into three categories: gratification, surprise and sometimes anger. When presenting to the public health community, we usually get a sigh of relief and “Thank goodness. It’s about time!” Public health advocates have applauded our team for helping take this critical issue into a broader “public” space. They know the data, supported by mountains of evidence, so they are heartened that the film helps to advance the social determinants message as it tells human stories. Like them, we question the individual, bio-medical model. Why, for example, are poor smokers more likely to get cancer than wealthy smokers? Why is our health status often determined by where we live, work and play or the color of our skin?
LS: Another set of audiences – perhaps more emblematic of the general public – finds the revelations in the series eye-opening and stunning. They come away with a new grasp of how society matters for health. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if we’re sick it’s because we’ve made unhealthy choices or have “bad” genes, that an ailing soul can pop a magic pill, or that if we just eat right, exercise and quit smoking, all our health problems will evaporate. The reality – that class and race-based inequality affects your health – is hard to wrap your mind around. But it all comes together for viewers in the four hours and seven segments that make up UNNATURAL CAUSES.
Isn’t this mostly a problem of the poor and some people of color? Why should
the rest of us care?
LA: Apart from common decency, there are very practical reasons why we should all care about health inequities. Believe it or not, almost all of us are affected. First, there is a continuous wealth gradient, or pyramid, with health tracking wealth from top to bottom. Those at the top hold the most power and resources and, on average, live longer, healthier lives. The rest of us do worse – some even much worse. But it’s not just the poor who are sick and dying. Those in the middle are still almost twice as likely to die an early death as those at the top. But the real question is, should how much money we have determine how long we live or who gets sick and who doesn’t?
LS: Also, business is losing more than $1 trillion a year in productivity due to chronic illness, and our medical care system is stretched to the breaking point by a sick population and becoming increasingly unaffordable. We’re all paying the price, whether we realize it or not. Health inequities are not about them. It is very much an “us” issue.
How does the research you present in the film series differ from that of previous films?
LA: UNNATURAL CAUSES breaks new ground by sifting through a wide body of existing research on the sources of our socioeconomic and racial inequities in health and putting it on television for the first time. Michael Moore’s Sicko was about our health care system.
UNNATURAL CAUSES looks at what’s making us sick in the first place. Health care is what Robert Evans called “our repair shop,” where we take our bodies when they break down. But what’s wearing down our engines in the first place? And why is that wear and tear so differentially distributed by race and by class? That’s what this film explores. We’ve just scratched the surface. There are many opportunities for investigative, feature and local news reporting, not just coverage by health writers or television critics.
Expound on the phrase repeatedly heard in the series: “Social policy is health policy.”
LA: Americans’ life expectancy increased 30 years over the 20th century. That wasn’t just because of new drugs and medical technology. Arguably, much of that improvement can be attributed to social reforms that raised the standard of living for most everyone. The eight-hour work day, universal schooling, Social Security, collective bargaining rights, building codes, pollution laws, corporate regulation, and civil rights legislation – these all improved living conditions and thus the health status of millions of Americans. Travel overseas to Europe where health and life expectancy are considerably higher than ours, and you also see the links between national social policies and government expenditures. Free universal child care, quality schools, paid parental leave, paid vacation and, of course, guaranteed health care – these things powerfully enhance health for individuals, families and communities. Sweden has a child poverty of 4.2 percent. Ours is 22 percent – more than 5 times higher. But the social spending is reversed: Sweden allocates 18 percent of its GDP to social programs; the U.S. less than 4 percent. Should we be surprised that Swedes live on average four years longer than Americans?
LS: I can answer that question by revisiting our series title. Class and racial inequities and the health disparities they spawn are not “natural.” They are the products of public policies that transfer wealth and power to corporations and the rich. We don’t have to opt for the status quo. Our health outcomes are patterned so unequally because of decisions we as a society have made. We can make a difference if we choose. Besides income, there are all sorts of health benefits — and health threats — that are distributed unequally, ranging from good schools to access to nutritious and affordable food to racial opportunity. Building a more just and equitable society that works for everyone is not simply a PC (politically correct) ideal. It has life and death consequences.
You’ve laid out the problem and challenges. What about solutions?
LA: By demonstrating how inequality and racism are not abstract concepts but hospitalize and kill even more people than cigarettes, UNNATURAL CAUSES hopes to build support for the best medicine of all: economic equality, racial justice and caring communities. There’s a lot we can do. As sociologist David Williams points out in the show , improving equality of opportunity, increasing wages, investing in our schools, reversing regressive tax policies, improving housing, integrating neighborhoods, opening up labor markets and giving people more control over their jobs – these are all public health strategies.
How do you want this film series to be used?
LS: Well, first we want to inject these ideas about health equity into a larger public dialogue, something even the researchers and epidemiologists admit they haven’t been able to do effectively. Michael Moore’s film Sicko vividly depicts one critical dimension of our national health crisis — yes, we should all have good health care, but the question remains: Why are whole populations and communities in such dire need of health care much more often than others? What is creating illness in some communities and healthy living in others? So, at a time when the country is discussing health care solutions, we also need to be discussing these other social and economic factors that have powerful consequences for health.
Second, we hope the series will help change the way we think about health, by making these ideas and research accessible to ordinary viewers, community activists, legislators, policy makers as well as public health teachers and administrators. Very little of this data on the social determinants of health has been presented in ways that are accessible to the general public. Month after month it’s published in peer-reviewed journals that most of us have never heard of and will never see. So our series is breaking new ground, not because we’ve done original research, but because we’ve taken the research and shown how these concepts play out in stories from the lives of real people around the country. For me, that’s the real excitement and power of UNNATURAL CAUSES.
AAHI-SBC Executive Director, V. Diane Woods, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., R.N
(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) AAHI-SBC invites you to meet with Herb Schultz, Health Policy Advisor, Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 in San Bernardino TO provide recommendations for implementation of health reform as it relates to the Black community.
The meeting will be held at Community Hospital of San Bernardino, in the Solarium Room, in the Medical Office Building at 1800 N. Western Avenue (4th Floor).
The meeting time – 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., lunch will be served.
To RSVP contact: Anthony Thomas, M.H.A. 909-496-5792. Room at Community
Hospital of San Bernardino is limited, so please make your reservation.