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Where You Live Impacts Your Health

In How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities co-authors Veronica Squires and Breanna Lathrop assert that people’s social environments (social determinants) need to be considered and met in order to treat and provide holistic healing.

Title:                            How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities

Author:                       Veronica Squires and Breanna Lathrop

Publisher:                  InterVarsity Press, 2019

Reviewer:                   Omar Miranda, Counselor and Freelance Writer

What are the main concerns being addressed?

The two main concerns being addressed are:

  1. How and why people’s environments make them sick
  2. How to use a comprehensive whole-health approach to meet all the needs people have to provide optimal health.

Were those concerns clearly stated?

Yes. Both Veronica Squires and Breanna Lathrop demonstrate comprehensive and authoritative knowledge about the topic. And they clearly articulate the main concerns listed throughout the book.

What are the book’s strengths and contributions?

The most powerful strength of this book is that Squires and Lathrop actually moved into the neighborhood and community that they were seeking to serve. Both authors take turns writing from a first-person perspective about each issue and topic they address—and how their own social determinants affected them and their neighbors and communities. This book is both humorous and academically rigorous given the research studies it presents. The stellar writing goes a step further in its approach at making the research relevant breaking it down and applying it to specific situations with patients.

The authors powerfully prove their thesis that the old conventional healthcare model of simply providing physical healthcare to the neglect of various social and environmental issues that a patient faces is insufficient and ultimately ineffective. The authors walk the reader through the research behind such a problem and give the reader an inside look at how they shifted in their medical practice at “Good Samaritan Health Center” in Atlanta, Georgia—one of the most successful and effective holistic health centers. 

What do you wish the author would have added?

At the end of the book Squires and Lathrop provide discussion questions for both parts of the book. However, the book packs so much information into each chapter that it would have been much more effective if each chapter had it’s own discussion questions.

What do you wish the author would have left out?

I wished the authors left out their justifications for moving into an urban inner-city community. Considering that both authors are White, I understand that they were trying to be transparent and authentic. However, I perceived this portion of their narrative to be somewhat condescending, and reminiscent of racial imperialism. For example, they write, “I’m white and I’m going to move down to this inner-city, predominantly black neighborhood and save everybody!” Alternatively, the authors could have just written that they decided to move into a community that was close to their work and then written about what they learned. It is possible to be too honest, and not everything a writer thinks needs to be written.

What were some good conscience quickening quotes from the book?

“The neighborhood [urban, lower socioeconomic] is deadly, but . . . for those living within the neighborhood, poverty, unemployment, racism, the built environment, and systems of oppression are literally making them sick.” 7

“Ignoring social determinants is equivalent to treating patients with unwashed hands and wondering why disease keeps spreading. . . .Community members, city planners, social services providers, educators, faith communities, and businesses must collaborate to create a new normal: a society where zip code doesn’t determine life expectancy.” 25

“ . . . God wants his creation to be healthy. The Gospels show Jesus healing, serving, and being with people, often the ones most ostracized by society.” 106

“Small changes can gain national momentum when increasing numbers of people demand change and commit to being part of that process. Be a part of that change process. . . . There is a better way for our nation to be healthy.” 195

What was so liberating about the book?

What was liberating about the book was that the authors, both in their personal and professional lives, made amazing shifts in how they perceived their realities. They were able to learn, live, and truly begin to understand becoming more than just being empathetic. Ultimately, they came to know how many communities only exist, but don’t truly live! Then they realized that they, and really all of us, can each work together to make a real and lasting change in the way healthcare is delivered in the United States of America. Understanding their shift and making it a reality in multiple communities could bring us all one step closer to truly being the United States of America.

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