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Earth Focus: You Are Where You Live

by Valeria Cardi and Nicky Milne | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Working with low-income communities in Los Angeles County, the doctors at AltaMed, one of America's largest community health organizations, have learned that fixing what's happening inside their patients means looking at the environment outside.

Air pollution, lack of green spaces, limited access to fresh food - these are the things, more than genetics, that make people sick, says Dr. Michael Granados at AltaMed's clinic in the city of South Gate, where one-fifth of the majority Latino patients fall under the federal poverty line.

The clinic's patients live in a food desert, where the only affordable meals are high in fat and carbohydrates, with few parks to escape the fumes from the freeways hugging their neighborhoods.

Their stories show the dire impact that environmental and social factors have on their health, from obesity to anxiety, diabetes to hypertension.

In wealthier areas like Manhattan Beach, just across town from South Gate, people are likely to live 10 years longer, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

"Why don't we deserve the right to be healthy?" asks Juanita Medina, a resident of Monterey Park, who says her windows are constantly covered in black soot from the freeway feet from her home.

"I can only imagine what the inside of my lungs look like."

"You Are Where You Live" highlights how, for so many communities, the difference between sick and well depends on where you live and what you breathe.

When it comes to health, "the poor pay the price" of their poverty, says Dr. Granados.

This film is part of 'Earth Focus', an investigative series that reports on our changing environment and how it affects people around the world.

Thomson Reuters Foundation co-produces this series with KCET, a content channel of the Public Media Group of Southern California.