There is a direct connection between the health of people and the social conditions under which they live. Lower income, lower social status, and the relative lack of control over one’s life create stress that acts as a primary driver of ill health. This is manifest as lower life expectancy and increased risks for virtually all major causes of death for all who are below the top in wealth and status. The lower the income or status, the higher the risk of premature death. This is According to the PBS documentary “Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?” which CHEER showed at a kick off event for the Takoma Park and Long Branch community health assessment on Thursday October 14.
About 35 people attended the event. In the discussion that followed participants said that disparities in income and health are plainly evident in Takoma Park. This raised questions. “What can we do to improve health in our community?” “How do we de-stress our community?” What initiatives are in place to improve better living conditions for mid to low income earners living in apartment communities?” Some suggested looking at state policy and coordinating with others to see what can de done to reduce disparities. Others suggested improving access to healthier food choices, examining challenges for immigrants, and looking at rent stabilization and its effect on health.
CHEER Board Chair, Christopher King, and CHEER Health Group Member, Mary Carter-Williams introduced the program and State Delegate Heather Mizeur who offered her perspective on health care legislation and areas where we can focus on improving health in Maryland. Corinne Warren led the discussion afterward. Sponsorship for this and future showings of Unnatural Causes comes from the Consumer Health Foundation and the Center on Health Disparities At Adventist Health Care.
This kickoff is the first step in CHEER’s community based participatory process to conduct a community health assessment of conditions in Takoma Park and Long Branch. This process focuses on assessing five goals: improving access to health information, improving equal access to health care, reducing disparities in health outcomes, empowering individuals to promote their own wellness, and helping social networks and local institutions support people’s health and wellness. The health assessment will result in a community report card and actions that will make a difference.
The next step is to organize ways to continue and expand the discussion about what we need to learn and what we can do to make a healthier community. Join us on Wednesday October 27 at 7:30 pm in the Hydrangea room of the Takoma Park Community Center for a gathering to get to know each other and learn fun and interesting ways to engage and learn from each other as we continue a process that will empower community members to action, inform policy makers, and improve local institutions’ contributions to a healthier community.