The Skin You’re In: Using Film to Empower the Residents of Brownsville
Building Healthy Communities
November 19, 2015
Outside New York State
Black Americans live sicker and die younger than any other ethnic group in the United States—they are 65% more likely to die of prostate cancer, 50% more likely to have hypertension, and 79% more likely to live in neighborhoods that pose an environmental health threat than white Americans.
Despite thousands of articles documenting these health inequities, little progress has been made to eliminate them. The Claybridge Health Education Fund (the Fund) produces and disseminates public health education and training materials on the impact of these health inequities and solutions to address them. The Fund launched a national campaign to translate existing academic research into a platform that can empower individuals and communities to make a difference. One element of this campaign was the documentary film, The Skin You’re In. The film gives a first-hand account of the health disparities between black and white America. In 2015, NYSHealth awarded the Fund a grant to devote a chapter of the film to Brownsville, Brooklyn, a grantee of the NYSHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund initiative.
Under this grant, the Fund filmed in Brownsville to display what is being done to improve the public health of the neighborhood. Brownsville has the largest concentration of public housing in the nation, as well as the lowest life expectancy in New York City. One of NYSHealth’s Healthy Neighborhoods Fund sites, Brownsville has many initiatives involving residents, community leaders, and organizations working to restore the community. The filmmakers highlighted these positive examples of change. After completing footage of Brownsville, the filmmakers worked with NYSHealth grantees and other partners to organize community viewings of the film, in advance of its official release. After each screening, there was opportunity to participate in a discussion on the film’s topics and themes, explicitly on Brownsville and the work of the Brownsville-based individuals and organizations that are making a difference. Discussions were framed around actionable items and facilitated by Brownsville leaders who could engage residents to join the positive movement for change.