Produced by KQED's community correspondents, ouRXperience was launched with the idea that the best way to learn about the health lives of our communities is to give voice to community members themselves. Read more about our blog here.
About our Community Correspondents
The blog ouRXperience is reported by our community correspondents: involved residents committed to informing the rest of us about what is happening in neighborhoods across California. Learn more about our correspondents here.
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Author Archives: Xan West
Editor's Note: Because Occupy Oakland has so dominated the news recently, Xan West stepped outside of health reporting and produced the short video below. She surveyed friends and acquaintances for reaction to the movement. The seven people West interviewed all … Continue reading
Most of the nation recalls watching their televisions as Hurricane Katrina flooded and ravaged the shores of New Orleans. While for many residents of West Oakland, preparing for an emergency can fall to the bottom of a list of needed improvements, Hurricane Katrina was a frightening reminder that when catastrophe hits, it particularly impacts the most vulnerable communities. Communities like West Oakland already grappling with poverty and a lack of resources are often least able to respond to large-scale disasters.
The murder of 3-year-old Carlos Nava in East Oakland, as well as a bloody summer, has once again brought Bay Area urban violence into media headlines. Yet residents, law enforcement and city officials continue to have opposing views on how to change the epidemic of violence in Oakland.
There is a direct biological correlation between childhood trauma and adult disease, according to Dr. Nadine Burke, Director of the Bayview Child Health Center. Burke is actively attempting to change this outcome. She believes that stability, exercise, mindfulness and other coping mechanisms can reverse the effects of chronic stress and trauma in high-violence places like West Oakland and San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point, where Burke’s work is based.
“I am a strong believer in the mind-body connection,” says Burke. “Particularly in stressed communities like West Oakland or Bayview there is less access to healthy food. But you actually need lean protein and all the nutrients that are found in vegetables and fruits to be able to create neurotransmitters, so you can have a healthy mood in your brain.”
“When you have something that makes you really afraid, that fear response actually has effects on your body and the more times that happens the more significant those effects are,” says Burke. “When you are living in a community where that may happen quite often – or you're a child living in a household where that is happening all the time – that can be really harmful to all of the body's different systems.”
In low-income communities like Bayview/Hunters Point in San Francisco and West Oakland, children often suffer from trauma in the form of domestic violence, addiction, incarceration of a parent and many other stressors. Even children from relatively stable homes are often unable to be sheltered from the violence that is right outside their doors, as well as the stress of poverty and racism. Burke says these stresses have long-term health effects on children and those living in violent areas.