Friday, February 13, 2009

Place Matters

We recently returned from another site visit to the High Point Re-development in West Seattle. We collected reems of data on the community aspects of this project and are in the process of developing research questions to hone in on the complex ways place matters to health and well-being. 

Our approach as medical sociologists focuses on the "the social determinants of health:" The idea that one's social class, immigration status, language, race/ethnicity, education, neighborhood and other social factors shape exposure to health risks (i.e., toxic chemicals, discrimination, stress, anxiety) as well as access to resources that can help mitigate the effect of those risks (i.e., education, health care, healthy foods, social mobility).  These social determinants directly correlate with health inequity as many of us are disproportionately affected by these social inequalities and their corresponding adverse health effects. 

One of the benefits of green communities, particularly those with an environmental justice component, may be to intervene into these inequalities. The High Point re-development is a great case study for exploring this and we aren't alone in thinking so: you can see High Point in the amazing 7-part documentary series Unnatural Causes.  The documentary series and accompanying website is an excellent resource into understanding health equity and the way that place matters in health and illness.

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