Thursday, February 26, 2009
Background: Turn on the stress response for five minutes and it can save your life. But as Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky observes, turn on the stress response for 30 years, even at a low level, and it can increase your risk for every chronic disease.
Chronic stress, like other conditions that threaten or promote health, is distributed unevenly through society along class and racial lines. Our ability to manage the pressures that might upset our lives is not simply a matter of personality or character; it's tied to our access to power, resources, support networks and opportunities. Both exposures to stressors and access to the resources we need to manage them are tied to our class and social status.
We all experience stress. Our body's stress response is actually a way of protecting us from a perceived danger. In the face of peril, hormones like cortisol and epinephrine increase our heart rate and blood pressure to supply oxygen and glucose to muscles and the brain while shutting down "non-essential" functions like growth and reproduction.
Rockefeller University's Bruce McEwen and UCLA's Teresa Seeman are among those studying how long-term or chronic stress throws our body out of balance, especially our neuro-endocrine, immune and cardiovascular systems. McEwen calls the measurable wear and tear of persistent "micro-insults" to the body allostatic load. He and other researchers are demonstrating how chronic stress increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart and artery disease, stroke, depression, auto-immune diseases, impaired memory, even failure to ovulate in females and erectile dysfunction in males.
There's also increasing evidence that repeated activation of the stress response early in life can literally affect the wiring of the brain, inhibit children's ability to develop "resilience," and increase the chances they will develop helplessness, anger and depression later in life and become more susceptible to obesity and illness.
All of us face pressures in our lives, but our ability to cope - and consequently stay healthy or not - depends on our position on the class pyramid. It's not CEOs who are dropping dead of heart attacks, it's their subordinates. Why? Because those with access to power, resources, support and opportunity have more control over the forces that impinge upon their lives and are better able to manage or escape the demands placed upon them.
People who are lower on the socioeconomic pyramid tend to be exposed to more formidable and ongoing stressors, e.g., job insecurity, unpaid bills, inadequate childcare, underperforming schools, and dangerous or toxic living conditions, crowded homes, even noisy streets. They are also less likely to have access to the money, power, status, knowledge, social connections and other resources they need to gain control over these many tempests that threaten to upset their lives.
But it's not only those at the bottom of the pyramid harmed by stress. So are many middle managers, working people and especially people of color, whose aspirations to succeed are often thwarted by interpersonal and institutional barriers over which they have little control, including prejudice and racism. High demand / low control jobs are particularly stressful.
Today, chronic stress is widely recognized as a health threat. But suggested solutions usually are limited to individually based interventions like taking vitamin supplements, practicing yoga, or meditating. Although these are helpful, they aren't the whole picture. We also need strategies that challenge the underlying economic and social conditions that imperil our chances for health in the first place.
Social policies like living wage jobs, greater autonomy and control at work, safe, walkable neighborhoods, efficient public transportation, good schools, and quality, affordable housing and paid vacations are all effective ways to reduce stress, though they require a political commitment, not just a personal one. But political engagement is an effective remedy in more ways than one: while improving social conditions improves health, research suggests that the very act of engagement can also be empowering and thus stress reducing. That's a double victory.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The stats are part of a the Healthy Development Measurement Tool.
"The Healthy Development Measurement Tool is a comprehensive evaluation metric to consider health needs in urban development plans and projects.
The HDMT explicitly connects public health to urban development planning in efforts to achieve a higher quality social and physical environment that advances health."
Check it out, it is very interesting.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
Rally and Press Conference
Support Mission Families in their fight to keep their homes!
The apartment building on 24th and Harrison, (2789 Harrison St), home to 6 working-class Immigrant and Latino Families are being forced out of their long-time homes by a new land-lord. He is trying to implement rent increases between $800.00 and $1100.00 per month, in effect forcing the residents out of their homes. The residents are willing to negotiate a fair increase in rent in order to remain in their homes. These increases are too much for these working families to afford, we believe this is an injustice and ask that the owner of the property RBA member Mr. Allen McCarthy negotiate a fair rent increase and new lease with the residents of 2789 Harrison.
Please Join us on the Steps of City Hall for a rally and Press Conference to support the Residents and the introduction of a Board of Supervisor Resolution introduced by District 9 Supervisor David Campos calling for a just resolution for the residents.
Rally and Press Conference
Tuesday, February 10
Steps of City Hall (Polk St. entrance)
Sponsored by: Comite 24 y Harrison with support from MAC, and community allies
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Our last post gave you the result of the vote to override the veto on the New Mission Theater, let's just say it didn't go our way. The press and blogger attention this story got was minimal, to put it kindly. Compare that to the incredible amount of heat and press coverage that the spectre of American Apparel coming to Valencia has generated, it's truly mind boggling given the relatively small impact that this store would have on the neighborhood as a whole. Meanwhile, Gavin Newsom helps Gus Murad, the glad handing owner of "the Douchiest Bar in San Francisco," execute an end run around the Planning Department and the Board of Supervisors to build close to 100 high-end condos and Medjool Part II where a beloved and historical theater sits, and all those angry Valencia Street activists and bloggers have shown about as much interest in this anti-gentrification battle as they would in going to a close out sale at Lane Bryant.
In part, its lack of outreach on our part to bring in the folks that are now activated by the AA campaign. However, its no secret that the Mission has been overrun with gentrifying development projects throughout the past decade with a noticeable lack of outrage from most of the folks jumping on the anti-formula retail bandwagon.
The takeaway is that (duh) money rules and community consciousness often doesn't extend past race and class lines, even when similar battles are happening literally one block away from each other.
To have a real shot at preventing big money developers from continuing to call the shots in the Mission all of the different sectors of the anti-gentrification movement have to come together. Its one thing to drive off a sleazy, mustachioed formula retail vendor out of a neighborhood that's already hating on chain stores. Its quite another to fight off sophisticated developers with ready access to City decision makers and deep pockets to fund politician's election drives.
I'll leave you with a silver lining, the New Mission Theater battle is far from over. The project still has to go through the Planning Commission to receive permission to move forward and, if we lose there, will come before the Board of Supervisors again on appeal. We shall see if the anti-AA forces are willing to extend their concern for preserving the Mission one block east. We sincerely hope they do.
See what the Chronicle had to say here. You can read Supervisor Daly's take on the issue and the influence of money here.