BOSTON - Mayor Thomas M. Menino today called on public health advocates, policymakers, business, academic and community leaders to join Boston’s efforts to close the gap in racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic health disparities, using a new documentary on the subject to spark a fresh conversation on an issue that his administration has championed for a decade.
“To address disparities in health, the solutions must be multi-pronged and cut across all sectors of industry,’’ Mayor Menino told a gathering of several hundred people at the JFK Library and Museum before the screening of the documentary, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? The four-part series begins airing tonight on many PBS stations nationwide, including on WGBH in Boston.
“I long ago pledged to make addressing health disparities a top priority of my administration and I encourage all of you to make it a top priority as well,’’ Mayor Menino said.
Mayor Menino made his remarks before a panel of public health leaders discussed creating a unified health equity agenda and screened Unnatural Causes, some scenes of which were filmed in Boston. Several local public health experts are also featured in the documentary, produced by California Newsreel in association with Boston-based Vital Pictures, Inc. Two of the filmmakers also were expected to participate on the panel.
The event at the Kennedy Library was sponsored by the Boston Public Health Commission, the
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Harvard
School of Public Health, and the Institute for Linguistic and Cultural Skills at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.
It was the first in a series of citywide screenings of the film and discussions on health disparities that the Public Health Commission will sponsor in Boston neighborhoods over the next several weeks to tackle, for example, why black residents are 23 times more likely to die from diabetes than whites and what can be done about it.
“Under Mayor Menino’s leadership, we’ve made great progress in eliminating health disparities,’’ said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “The next step is building support for an agenda that all of us can work together to advance and grow the movement to eliminate disparities.’’
As part of its disparities elimination effort, the Commission will make training and funding available to community-based organizations for advocacy and health equity work. Another plan involves developing a health equity curriculum to institute next fall in the Boston Public Schools to promote civic engagement among youths.