Local social determinants in action!

Since I’ve been on a social media kick, my goal was to find any effective social media happening locally here in NYC. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s tumblr caught my eye.

“Creating environments that make it easier and safer for communities to be physically active is a key health initiative for the Health Department.” I’m so happy to see NYC doing big things and really keeping social determinants of health as a guide in creating health programs. Here is a press release describing the event.

 

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Lazy = driving to store and getting bacon

This is one of my favorite articles of all time. I am so happy I found it. I recognized it right away.

I remember reading this article and just having my mind bend by obstacles faced by the featured family.  I didn’t really ever think of how once one is financially unstable , how impossible it can be to change their situation. The article,” Waiting for the 8th” describes this perfectly.

Even though its been three years since I read this article, the part I remembered the most were the telling details. I remembered a slight variation of the following phrase, “Lazy would be getting in a car, turning on the heat, going to the grocery store and picking out some bacon.”

First, it reconfirms the importance of “telling details” and how this article is laced with factual information, but  it was the quote about how getting in your car and driving to get bacon is easy. I remembered it was about poverty and homelessness in DC, but it was this quote that stuck with me.

This was probably the first time I was really exposed to the idea of social determinants of health. The part of the story that is eye opening is how organized, and frugal the mother had to be just to be able to feed her children – a basic need. It  seemed like a part-time job organizing all the resources to ensure food was available. It makes perfect sense that these stressors were beginning to affect how she felt about herself and she reported,”stress, panic attacks, leg numbness and anxiety.”

 

Diagnoses Relief

Last week I posted about the Ad Council’ autism awareness campaign. I snooped around a bit more and found an NPR article to back up much of what I posted last week. Below is a great article about three individuals  journey to an autism diagnoses. The one that stuck out the most was Sam Harvey (below). I hate to give it away, but he was able to navigate the school system and become a teacher before finding out he even had a social disorder. This proves that for many integration into the school system at a young age has proven benefits.

As an aside, I love the graphics they used to portray each of the featured individuals. They are portrayed in positive light, as if they were a famous, contemplative author or musician. I think this is a wonderful way to portray those who have difficult stories to share.

Pieces like this can really work to decrease stigma of those with disabilities. Imagine if a teacher shared these stories with a class in middle school?

 

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Colum McCan ALWAYS

One of my favorite modern writers is Colum McCan and I was able to see him a few weeks ago at NY presbyterian. He is hyper dope and I recommend to check out his books. My favorite is “Let the Great World Spin.” Seeing him in-person was surreal because a few years ago I was reading his book and googling him from afar, trying to envision how he was able to create these intricate and sensitive stories. His books often feature characters from various ages, background and cultures. I can tell you he was exactly how I envisioned him.

Since it was hosted at NY Presbyterian by the Columbia Narrative Medicine program it had a health spin. He explained that listening to patients is like storytelling. Although the patient may come in for cut on her arm, the factors may actually be the bills she can’t pay. I have never heard an author be so tuned-in to social determinants of health and its probably why he is such an excellent writer.  He stated to properly heal is beyond “recognizing the disease.” He shared in his own work, he had to learn about the health conditions to truly write so as to bring a character to life.

Additionally, he took at moment to highlight his nonprofit Narrative Four. There is a great video from the author explaining the storytelling mission of the organization.  You can find the video here Narrative Four Video.

 

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Zipcodes and why they matter

A perfect example of social determinants of health is highlighted in the idea that life expectancy can vary by zipcode. This article succinctly describes why life expectancy can depend so much on area of residence. It highlights an almost 20 year difference in New Orleans from one zipcode to the next. This reviews all of the social elements that work together to contribute to either higher or lower life expectancies and is truly one of the best ways to understanding social determinants of health.

 

What is a food desert?

 

I, myself, was not familiar with this term until I read an article a few years back.  Very often eating healthfully is framed in a way that requires extreme discipline and self control, putting the onus on the individual. It is framed, simply, to just eat less to lower the amount of calories you are getting. However, there are structural and environmental obstacles to eating and choosing healthy, like access to healthy foods. Food deserts can be described as areas that don’t have enough easily accessible, healthy food options. To get a sense of how common this term is I polled 4 friends at dinner last night to see if they were familiar with this term. As I suspected, only one had heard of this term before.  As I dug a little deeper I found some interesting stuff.

The USDA website has a resources that allows you to find food deserts. There is a map that allows you to enter geographical information to find areas classified as food deserts, based on low access to food and low income.  As I entered a nearby NYC zipcode, I had no idea I would be so close to a zone as 125 and Broadway are extremely busy hubs of activity.  There is was at 126 and Morningside,  a food desert. Just to give some context, this is only a few blocks from Columbia. This goes to show something could be happening right next to you and you don’t even realize it.

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Introduction to social determinants of health:

As I christen this blog, I wanted to review the term social determinants of health which is where the idea for this blog sprouted. First, let’s un-jargon this term…social determinants of health means your environment plays a large role and can even dictate your health status. One’s environment includes more obvious elements like your social networks and background, to other less obvious ones like, where you work, or where you play and in which park. All of these factors combine to work towards either promoting your health or act as barriers to a healthful lifestyle. For this blog I hope to review various underrepresented and less talked about issues that go unnoticed. Additionally, 2010 figures reported about 80% of the US lives in  cities. This helped me to further hone in on the issue, as I will focus on urban health.