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Davis, California

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Health disparity subject of documentary, panel discussion

Ever wonder if your place in society is affecting your health?

The relationship between social class and health will be the topic of a documentary preview screening and panel discussion on campus tonight. The documentary, directed by Larry Adelman, is titled Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? It focuses on the disparity in health between the working class and the upper class.

The documentary screening and panel discussion will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in 180 Medical Science Building 1C. The screening is free and open to the public, although attendance for the entire conference is $20 for students.

The event was coordinated by UC Davis professor emeritus of public sciences David Gibson.

This documentary does an admirable job of laying out a good deal of what is known, Gibson said. It makes it clear that working-class people have four times the death rate than higher class people.

The screening is sponsored by the UC Davis department of public health sciences and Center for Reducing Health Disparities, the California Department of Public Health and the California Health Association-North.

Gibson said that panel discussion will alternate with clips from Unnatural Causes in order to generate a discussion on health disparity.

There’s a gradient to health, and that gradient really follows the class ladder, said Adelman, director of the documentary.

Adelman said that while people often associate diet, exercise and genetics with illnesses such as heart disease, there are really many causes for disease. Adelman’s documentary focuses on race and social class as causes of health inequality.

What we are trying to do with the series is reframe what people think of as health, Adelman said.

Adele Amodeo, interim executive director for the California Public Health Association-North, said that high stress jobs in environments that the worker cannot control lead to poorer health.

There are social and environmental factors – that at first glance have nothing to do with health – that have a huge impact, Amodeo said.

Amodeo said people who live in more industrial areas, near power plants or shipping yards, tend to be working class people. She said that these conditions can lead to poorer health.

The keynote speaker at the conference is Leonard Syme, a professor of epidemiology and community health and human development at UC Berkeley. Amodeo said that Syme was a pioneer in the field of health inequality for his research into the health issues of San Francisco bus drivers. Syme found that diseases like heart disease were more common in bus drivers due to stress on the job.

People in high status jobs have much more control over those jobs than those at the bottom, Gibson said.

Members of the expert panel will be Calvin Freeman, consultant and former director of the Office of Multicultural Health at the California Department of Health Services, and Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, UC Davis professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities.

The four-hour documentary will be shown in seven parts on PBS in May.


MADELINE McCURRY SCHMIDT can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com. XXX


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