September 21, 2008

Piedmont Film Series Explores Universal Health Care Issues

By JM Brown

Because inequity in health care is often defined by socioeconomic status and ethnicity, the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee has selected a documentary series promoting universal health care for its upcoming Appreciating Diversity Film Series.

"Unnatural Causes: Is Inequity Making Us Sick" explores how income, race and a lack of education can have a dramatic effect on wellness and access to care. The series also presents some possible solutions for removing barriers to the cost and quality of health care.

"These films reframe that conversation to show that Americans die younger than citizens of more than 25 other countries -- and what's killing us is not violence or smoking or AIDS," said Maude Pervere, a member of the Appreciating Diversity Committee. "At the heart, doctors and researchers across the country are saying what's lethal is stress -- stress that attacks the poor and citizens of color far more than the rich."

The first part of the series will play Sept. 24 in Piedmont and Oct. 2 in midtown Oakland, and the second and third parts will be shown Oct. 1 in Piedmont and Oct. 9 in midtown Oakland. Admission is free.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for all showings and the films will play from 7- 8 p.m., followed by a one-hour discussion period. Dr. Anthony Iton, director of the Alameda County Public Health Department, who is a featured speaker in the film, is expected to lead discussions after the Sept. 24 and Oct. 2 showings.

Produced by California Newsreel, a company that creates social justice videos, the series presents hard-to-swallow facts about health care. For instance, the filmmakers point out that a black child living in an poor neighborhood is more likely to die at least 15 years earlier than a white child living in a nearby wealthy area.

"The wages and benefits we're paid, the neighborhoods we live in, the schools we attend, our access to resources and even our tax policies are health issues every bit as critical as diet, smoking and exercise," executive producer Larry Adelman wrote in a message posted on the film's Web site.

"The unequal distribution of these social conditions -- and their health consequences -- are not natural or inevitable," Adelman wrote. "They are the result of choices that we as a community, as states, and as a nation have made, and can make differently. Other nations already have, and they live longer, healthier lives as a result."

The Appreciating Diversity Film Series is presenting three of seven installments of "Unnatural Causes," which in total is four hours long. In the first hour-long installment, called "Sickness and in Wealth," filmmakers take a look at the connections between skin color, wealth and health.

In the second, 30-minute segment called "When the Bough Breaks," filmmakers tackle the nagging question of why black women have disproportionately more miscarriages and babies of low birth weight than white women.

The third installment, called "Becoming American" and also 30 minutes long, documents what filmmakers call the "Latino Paradox" -- a race- and income-driven phenomenon that attacks the wellness of immigrants who were much healthier when they first arrived in America.

Pervere hopes viewers take away from the film series is a sense that, although Americans can steer their own wellness through exercise and good eating habits, "Our health is driven far more by our zip codes than by our conscious choices."

"As a society, we can alter the effect of people's ZIP codes," Pervere said, "but we must work together to do it."

In addition to the Appreciating Diversity Committee, the series is presented by DiversityWorks, the Piedmont League of Women Voters and the Piedmont Adult School.

Reach J.M. Brown at [email protected] you Go

The Appreciating Diversity Film Series presents "Unnatural Causes."-- Part 1: "In Sickness and in Wealth" (one hour)-- Sept. 24, Ellen Driscoll Auditorium, Havens Elementary School, 325 Highland Ave., Piedmont; Oct. 2, Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland.-- Parts 2 and 3: "When the Bough Breaks" and "Becoming American" (30 minutes each)-- Oct. 1, Ellen Driscoll Auditorium, Havens Elementary School, 325 Highland Ave., Piedmont; Oct. 9, Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with $3 pizza. Screenings will be from 7- 8 p.m., followed by a discussion from 8 to 9 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information about the showings, visit or call 510-655-5552. To learn more about the film series, visit

Originally published by J.M. Brown, Piedmonter correspondent.

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