This week’s material included part 5 of the video series “Unnatural Causes” called “Place Matters”. It discusses the important question, “is inequality making us sick?”. Watching this video reminded me of the spring break mission trip I went on last March to the impoverished neighborhood of Brentwood in Jacksonville, FL. We spent a week in the heart of the one of the most segregated, poorest neighborhoods not only the in Jacksonville, but also in the United States. Our group of 16 college students collaborated with a local organization called 2nd Mile Ministries and spent a week helping the community in various ways. 2nd Mile’s mission is to see individuals empowered and the community transformed through mission and volunteer work. In the state of Florida, the Brentwood neighborhood is statistically highest in instances of family poverty, child poverty, infant mortality, low-birth weight babies, little to no prenatal care, child deaths, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, births to unwed mothers, single parent households, homicides, and high school dropouts. For many years, Brentwood was also known as “the murder capital” of Florida.
Before leaving our safe, liberal and beloved city of Madison, WI, our group met a few times over the course of a couple months. Our meetings consisted of educational videos and general information about Jacksonville to inform us of what kind of culture and community we would be entering into. In “Place Matters”, they examine a variety of different locational, causal health factors such a neighborhood and geographic location. A given place determines a person’s accessibility to resources, such as health care and food, and the environment by which they are surrounded. Place also determines a person’s level of exposure to environmental factors such as chemicals, and to social situations and relationships with neighbors. One of the main points of the video, which also applies to Brentwood in Jacksonville, FL, is that quality of housing and an individual’s neighborhood has a direct impact on his/her health. Many studies only consider the individual risk factors, such as diet, physical activity, and smoking, when looking at chronic diseases. However, it was very obvious while visiting Brentwood that there was more attributing to the poverty and illness in the community than just individual factors. When you look at the demographics of different chronic diseases compared to poverty levels and crime rates across a geographical area such as Jacksonville, FL, it is evident that place really matters.