Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

All across the country PBS is showing a documentary entitled “Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? Unfortunately, Kansas City’s PBS affiliate (KCPT) has decided to show this program at 1 in the morning. That’s too bad because local viewers are missing out on learning why a significant cause of poor health may not simply be unlucky genes or bad health care habits.

This series sheds light on other aspects that can lead someone to have poor health. Being born into poverty, not having a job with good wages, lack of a high school education, no regular access to a car, living in a high crime area, living in a neighborhood without access to a quality grocery store nearby, working for a company that does not offer health care coverage, getting pregnant at a very young age, having a physical or mental disability, not speaking English, being a racial minority, lack of home ownership, living in a polluted area are all social determinants that can have a serious impact on one’s life expectancy. Experts in public health have known for years that these life conditions can cause chronic health disease and mortality that are distributed unequally to the people who live under these circumstances.

If you are awake at 1 AM on April 3, April 10 or April 17 tune in to KCPT – Channel 19 and let me know what you think about the program. Those of you with a VCR or DVR could also record the program and watch at a more convenient time. HCF hopes to have some events in the coming year to discuss this topic. If we are serious about improving health, we have to do a better job of addressing these important issues.


I understand that the Foundation, from the very beginning, understood "violence" in its many forms related to both individual and community health. It shows that the original "design group" was thinking outside the box and refused to limit the definition of health to how it is normally identified. We look forward to our conversation on this topic and its ramifications for Kansas City with some of your staff early this summer. Keep up the good work! Marcella

Yes there are many inequalities in this country and they are ALL daunting and make us sick in one form or another. I commend you for looking at what these inequalities do to our overall physical/ mental health over a long period of time. Great job Kansas City on “yes” to all three questions on April 8th!

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About Me

Steve Roling

Steve Roling

Steve Roling is the President/CEO of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. Each week he blogs about issues that inspire him as we work toward eliminating barriers to quality health.