Unnatural Causes

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Contrary to what many people believe, America’s health status is not quite “up-to-par,” to say the least. Over forty-seven million people in the United States lack health insurance; that is more than 15% of our nation’s population! At first this disturbing truth seems impossible to believe, being as America is one of the most technologically advanced and economically developed countries in the world. “We spend trillions of dollars per year on medical care. That’s nearly half of all the health dollars spent in the world. But we’ve seen our statistics. We live shorter, often sicker lives than almost every other industrialized nation. “We rank 30th in [global] life expectancy” (Adelman 2008). Knowing this brings rise to the question: why are Americans so sick? One can conclude that this must simply be related to individual health behaviors and choices. But is that really it? Do we just choose not to be healthy? Upon further investigation it is determined that this is far from true. Although it may be true for some, one cannot deem an entire countries health status as unsatisfactory by just the few. “Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making us Sick (Episode 1: In Sickness and In Wealth),” a reputable PBS documentary, brings new light to the cause of America’s current health status. Through statistical and case-study related research it is determined that health status and social status show a direct correlation. Social status is comprised of economic and social factors that impact individual and communal health. These factors are referred to as the “social determinants of health” (Adelman 2008). The social determinants of health include: education, employment, income and race.

So, the obvious question is: how does education level and employment/income affect health care accessibility? The documentary begins with a focus on three individuals from three different social “classes;” these three people are employed at the same hospital, in Louisville, Kentucky, with...
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