UNNATURAL CAUSES is inequality making us sick? HEALTH EQUITY research topics and resources to learn more
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From the Experts

Ask the Experts

Following the PBS broadcast of UNNATURAL CAUSES, we solicited questions from the public about racial and socioeconomic inequities in health.

We received many questions on a variety of interesting topics. Since no one person could possibly address them all, we divided our experts into six forums. Many of the questions and answers touched on overlapping themes and ideas (some questions were repeated), so we encourage you to explore multiple forums for different perspectives on the issues.

Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Meizhu Lui, Makani Themba-Nixon, and Jack Shonkoff talk about neighborhoods, community organizations, labor, family, and early childhood.
Troy Duster, Jay Kaufman and Pilar Ossorio explore how biology and genetics impact health and our ideas about race.
William Dow, Tony Iton, Dennis Raphael, and David Williams discuss diet, universal health care, the economic costs of poor health, the "healthy immigrant effect," and the difference between health disparities and health inequities.
Camara Jones, Nancy Krieger, and Donald Warne speak to racism, hope, diabetes, infant mortality and industry-driven health care.
Nancy Adler, Bruce McEwen, and Peter Schnall address chronic stress, the wealth-health gradient, unemployment, and why women live longer than men.

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Scholar Interviews and Podcasts

These transcripts and podcasts are edited from original interviews conducted during the production of UNNATURAL CAUSES.

Anthony ItonDr. Tony Iton

Dr. Tony Iton, director of the Alameda County Department of Public Health, talks about the extraordinary health of recent Latino immigrants and what we can all learn from them, the importance of hope, the power of community organizing, and why it's in all our best interest to tackle inequities sooner rather than later.

Transcript (pdf)Podcast (mp3)Enhanced Podcast (m4a)

Camara Phyllis JonesDr. Camara Jones

Dr. Camara Jones, research director on the social determinants of health at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, discusses her pioneering work on measuring racism and health. She describes three levels of racism (personally mediated, internal and institutional), the stress of everyday racism, and the need to expand our thinking about how racism, opportunity and health inequities are structured and intertwined.

Transcript (pdf)Podcast (mp3)Enhanced Podcast (m4a)

Dr. David Williams Dr. David Williams

Dr. David Williams, Harvard professor and executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America, discusses how race and class relate, how poor circumstances cluster geographically, and why political power is good for your health.

Transcript (pdf)

Jack P. Shonkoff Dr. Jack Shonkoff

Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, discusses the importance of early childhood experiences on life-long health, learning, and success. He describes the effect of toxic stress on brain development, and asserts that we have a moral and economic incentive to provide the best environments for all children or pay the price later in the form of reduced productivity and the burden of chronic disease.

Transcript (pdf)Podcast (mp3)Enhanced Podcast (m4a)

Nancy Krieger Dr. Nancy Krieger

Dr. Nancy Krieger of the Harvard School of Public Health talks about the political economy of health, how racial and place-based inequities impact health, and how public health and social justice are inextricably intertwined.

Transcript (pdf)Podcast (mp3)Enhanced Podcast (m4a)

Michael MarmotSir Michael Marmot Interview

Sir Michael Marmot of University College, London, discusses the social gradient in health, his pioneering Whitehall Studies and why he's optimistic about improving health outcomes.

Transcript (pdf)Podcast (mp3)Enhanced Podcast (m4a)

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Meet Our Panel of Experts

Dolores Acevedo-Garcia Dolores Acevedo-Garcia is an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research interests include the effect of social determinants such as residential segregation and immigrant integration on health inequities and the role of non-health interventions, such as housing and immigrant policies, in reducing those inequities. She serves on numerous academic and advisory panels and is Project Director of DiversityData.org.
Nancy E. Adler Nancy E. Adler is a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Health and Community at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also director of the MacArthur Research Network on SES and Health and chairs/serves on committees for the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences and National Institute of Health. Her own research focuses on the impact of subjective social status on health.
Troy Duster William Dow is Associate Professor of Health Economics, Chair of the Health Services and Policy Analysis PhD Program, and Associate Director of the Berkeley Population Center at UC Berkeley. His current work analyzes economic aspects of health insurance, health behaviors, and health and demographic outcomes. He has conducted extensive health research in many countries, as well as in the U.S.
Troy Duster Troy Duster, professor of sociology at New York University, is a leading authority on the use and misuse of race and ethnicity in biomedical research. He has served on many national panels and committees, including as chair of the National Advisory Committee on Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project. His books include Backdoor to Eugenics and Whitewashing Race (co-author), and he has written numerous academic articles on theory and methods.
Anthony Iton Anthony Iton, M.D., is Alameda County Public Health Department Director and Health Officer. His work focuses on the effects of social determinants and systemic injustices on the health of disadvantaged populations and he promotes community empowerment strategies to eliminate health inequities. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Roemer Prize for Creative Public Health Work.
Camara Phyllis Jones Camara Phyllis Jones, M.D., is research director, Social Determinants of Health and Equity, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a professor of medicine and public health in Atlanta. She is also a family physician and social epidemiologist whose research focuses on the effects of racism and the structural causes of "racial” health inequities. Though her work, she hopes to initiate a national campaign against racism. Note: The responses and conclusions in this conversation are those of Dr. Jones and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jay S. Kaufman Jay S. Kaufman is associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, research fellow in the Sheps Center for Health Services Research, and editor of a number of academic journals. He studies how health status varies by socioeconomic factors, currently focusing on methods of analysis, social and community factors in preterm birth, and racial/ethnic disparities in medical care provision.
Nancy Krieger Nancy Krieger is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-director of the HSPH Interdisciplinary Concentration on Women, Gender, and Health. An internationally recognized social epidemiologist and long-time activist, she focuses on societal determinants of health inequities, including racism, class, and gender, methods for monitoring social inequalities in health, and theoretical frameworks, informed by history and politics, for addressing health inequities. She edited Embodying Inequality: Epidemiologic Perspectives and co-edited AIDS: The Politics of Survival and Women’s Health, Politics, and Power. She co-founded and chairs the Spirit of 1848 Caucus of the APHA, focused on links between social justice and public health.
Meizhu Lui Meizhu Lui is former executive director of United for a Fair Economy and a long-time activist for racial and gender equality. Her work calls attention to the growing divide between the very wealthy and the rest of us, and the negative consequences of racial inequality on our society. She recently co-authored The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide.
Bruce S. McEwen Bruce S. McEwen is Mirsky Professor and head of the Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University. His laboratory investigates stress effects on the brain and body and his work helps to reformulate concepts and measurements related to stress and stress hormones in the context of human societies. He co-authored the books The Hostage Brain and The End of Stress as We Know It.
Pilar N. Ossorio Pilar N. Ossorio is associate professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and faculty in UW’s Graduate Program on Population Health. Her work addresses the ethics of genetic research and issues at the intersection of race, research and justice. She serves on the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee for the Institute of Medicine and has served on numerous advisory committees and working groups on genetics and ethics.
Peter Schnall Dennis Raphael, professor at the School of Health Policy and Management, York University in Toronto, Canada, edited Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives, co-edited Staying Alive: Critical Perspectives on Health, Illness, and Health Care and authored Poverty and Policy in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life. Dr. Raphael serves on the Advisory Committee for Canada's National Collaborating Centre on the Determinants of Health.
Peter Schnall Peter Schnall, M.D., is clinical professor of medicine at the University of California at Irvine Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and adjunct professor of public health at UCLA. A physician and epidemiologist interested in sources of hypertension, he has played a key role in developing the field of “occupational cardiology.” He co-edited the Workplace and Cardiovascular Disease, edited the forthcoming Unhealthy Work (2008, Baywood Publishing), and currently directs the Center for Social Epidemiology.
Jack P. Shonkoff Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education, and founding director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. He also chairs the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a multi-university collaboration comprising leading scholars in neuroscience, developmental psychology, pediatrics, and economics, whose mission is to bring sound and accurate science to bear on public decision-making affecting the lives of young children.
Makani Themba-Nixon Makani Themba-Nixon is executive director of The Praxis Project, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building power and democracy through community-based media and policy advocacy, and former director of the Marin Institute Center for Media and Policy Analysis. She has published numerous pieces on race, media, policy advocacy and public health, including Making Policy, Making Change, Media Advocacy and Public Health (co-author) and most recently Talking the Walk: Communications Guide for Racial Justice.
Donald Warne Donald Warne, M.D., is president and CEO of American Indian Health Management & Policy and adjunct clinical professor at the Arizona State University College of Law. He comes from a long line of Oglala Lakota traditional healers, trained in medicine at Stanford and public health at Harvard, and has studied diabetes education and minority health policy. He worked for several years as a primary care and integrative medicine physician, and has developed diabetes education and prevention programs in partnership with tribes.
David R. Williams David R. Williams is Norman Professor of Public Health and professor of African and African American studies and of sociology at Harvard University. He is also executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. His work focuses on socioeconomic and racial differences in health, including the effects of racism on health. He is a top-cited social science researcher, whose work has been featured often in major national media.

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Recommended Health Equity Speakers

UNNATURAL CAUSES benefited from the participation of some of the country’s leading health equity researchers, practitioners and advocates. We have prepared a list of contributors and other friends of the series who may be available to provide additional expertise to your screening, panel, or other event.

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