Watch the Local Rebroadcast: A Documentary Series On ‘Unnatural’ Inequalities in Health

BOSTON, MA – Beginning on Sunday, October 11, Boston Public Broadcasting, WGBH, will join other PBS stations around the country who are rebroadcasting the documentary health series, ‘Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?’ Interested (and alert) viewers can watch on the 11th, 18th, and 25th of October as well as November 1, at 3:00 AM on WGBH’s Channel 44 (not Channel 2). For interested viewers in Rhode Island, subscribers of Verizon Fios Cable can access and find WGBH 44 in their listings; Cox Cable subscribers with regular cable do not get 44, but those getting ‘expanded’ service do. It is being presented on PBS by the National Minority Consortia of public television.

The prize-winning, four-hour series was produced by the San Francisco-based film production and distribution center California Newsreel ( with Vital Pictures ( of Boston. The multi-part piece shows that health “is determined by far more than health care, bad habits, or unlucky genes.” It is in large part, demonstrates the film, “the class and racial inequities in the rest of our lives – in the jobs we do, the wealth we enjoy, [and] the neighborhoods we live in…” According to the data, interviewed experts and conclusions of the filmmakers, “[i]t turns out that socio-economic status, race and zip code are even stronger predictors of health and life expectancy than smoking.”

Read more from the California Newsreel press release below or click here to download a copy.

UNNATURAL CAUSES raises unsettling questions with far-reaching political and social implications:

• Why does the most powerful nation in the world now rank 29th in life expectancy and 31st in infant mortality (worse than Slovenia) despite spending twice per person on health care than the average rich nation?

• Why do CEOs tend not to get heart attacks, but their subordinates do?

• Why do recent Latino immigrants, though typically poorer, enjoy better health than the average American, yet suffer a rapid decline the longer they are here?

• Why are some African American and Native American populations less likely to reach age 65 than people from Bangladesh?

Seven production teams, filming across America, captured stories on the ground, weaving
together human dramas with scientific data. The series reveals how at each step down the class pyramid—from the rich to the middle class to the poor—people tend to be sicker and die sooner. The poor die on average seven years earlier than the rich. But even middle-income Americans are dying two years sooner than those at the top. Poorer smokers face a greater chance of getting sick than rich smokers. Further, life-long exposure to racism seems to impose an additional health risk on many populations of color. For many diseases, African Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders – at all income levels – fare worse on average than their white counterparts.

But why? How can class and racism disrupt our physiology? Through what channels might inequalities in housing, wealth, power, and education translate into poor health? What is it about our poor neighborhoods, especially neighborhoods of color, that is so deadly? How are the behavioral choices we make (e.g. diet and exercise) constrained by the choices we have?

Solutions, the evidence suggests, lie not in more pills but in more equitable social policies. Top researchers, like Harvard’s Dr. David Williams, argue that secure, living- wage jobs, affordable housing, racial justice, good schools, safe streets and green spaces, access to produce and full-service markets and not just fast-food joints and mom and pops, are health issues just as critical as diet, tobacco and exercise. As a society, we have a choice: invest in the conditions for health now. Or pay to repair our bodies later.

More than 15,000 community dialogues, policy forums, trainings, and town hall meetings built around UNNATURAL CAUSES have been convened by hundreds of outreach partners and countless others since the series’ initial Spring 2008 broadcast and are reframing the way we think about health. Interactivities, video clips, discussion guides and other resources can be found on the series’ companion website at

UNNATURAL CAUSES has won praise from pundits around the country along with a
duPont-Columbia Award, the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust Excellence
in Journalism Award, the Council on Foundations Henry Hampton Award and other

The series received major funding from the Ford Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the California Endowment, the Joint Center Health Policy Institute, Kaiser Permanente and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, along with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Akonadi Foundation, Falk Fund and Gerbode Foundation. Additional outreach funding was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Open Society Institute.

To purchase DVDs of Unnatural Causes, contact California Newsreel at or 877-811-7495.


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