Making a Difference:
KET Health Programming
KET was a staunch, supportive, optimistic partner about how we could use the documentary to raise awareness about the issues—and how we could motivate people to not only understand the issues, but get involved.
Dr. Adewale Troutman
Director, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness
When Dr. Adewale Troutman talks about health, wellness, and the socioeconomic reasons why some people are sicker than others, people listen.
A physician, Troutman is the former director of Atlanta’s health department and the author of a study, along with former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, on racial disparities in the delivery of health care.
So when PBS sounded the alarm about the glaring socio-economic and racial inequities in health and searched for their causes in the groundbreaking four-hour series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, it turned to Troutman.
The director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness for the last two years, Troutman helped explain in that documentary series that in the United States, there’s a hidden killer in plain view—the social, economic, and physical environments in which we are born, live, and work profoundly affect our well-being and longevity.
“KET was a staunch, supportive, optimistic partner about how we could use the documentary to raise awareness about the issues—and how we could motivate people to not only understand the issues, but get involved,” he said recently from his downtown Louisville office.
“There needs to be social action that is founded in good, intellectual thought and good, factual information. KET and public television are our primary resource for that,” said Troutman, who also holds a master’s degree in public health.
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KET, which aired the documentary along with public television stations nationwide, took that information further through its efforts by its outreach department—organizing, videotaping, and airing town-hall meetings in Louisville on the subject, and hosting an additional town hall at its Lexington facility. Troutman, along with other guests, appeared on KET’s Connections with Renee Shaw to further explain the topic and offer the public tools to take action. “Public television has the ability to do what network TV cannot or will not do,” he said. “Because of the fact that it is funded through public monies it has a tremendous amount of freedom to really tackle issues, dig down deep and cover them with a great deal of focus and attention.”
Unnatural Causes did just that, bringing to light the mounting evidence that work, wealth, neighborhood conditions, and lack of access to power and resources can get under the skin and disrupt human biology as surely as germs and viruses.
Slowly but surely, Troutman says, awareness is growing of these socioeconomic inequities in the health of U.S. citizens. “I am on the board of the National Association of City and County Health Officials,” he noted, “and when we first started pushing the social determinants in health, nobody was talking about these issues.
“Now, wherever I go, there are people who are increasingly aware of this issue. There are a hundred health departments nationally in a new coalition who are using Unnatural Causes to raise awareness and stimulate activism throughout the United States on the local level.”
Troutman also notes the other health-related programming regularly featured by KET as critical to improving public health.
Kentucky Health, hosted by Louisville physician Dr. Wayne Tuckson, regularly delves into issues of both personal health care and public health. When Troutman was his guest, the two discussed violence as a public health issue. Other nationally produced programming frequently rounds out KET’s schedule, such as Frontline’s “Sick Around America,” which looks at the failures and future of the private insurance industry.
“Health is the most basic thing we have,” Troutman noted. Once inequities are understood, he said, “the challenge is to take it to the next level, to get people to understand that they can, if fact, influence policy change and eliminate all these gaps and differences.”