Looking for some intellectually stimulating downtime over the New Year weekend? In no particular order, we’ve collated a list of good documentaries relevant to public health. Some are bite-sized, some a bit longer, all enjoyable and informative. This list is brief and subjective, there certainly are more excellent films produced this year that we have not included. Please share any additions to this list in the comments below!
Cowspiracy: Did you know that 2,500 gallons of water are required to produce 1 lb of beef? And that animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. We can no longer ignore the environmental impact of animal agriculture, when human demand is outpacing the sustainability of breeding and raising livestock. Over 45% of the earth’s land is used for livestock and this figure is continually growing. Cowspiracy investigates the reasons why environmental agencies are keeping quiet about animal agriculture. Sadly not freely available, but is on Netflix and on their website for download along with a lot of information: http://www.cowspiracy.com/
Ghana: Cancer Ward: This Al Jazeera doc investigates the tensions between traditional and Western medicine in dealing with the rising number of female breast cancer cases in Ghana. Increasingly Westernised lifestyles and longer life expectancies contribute to this disease in Ghana, previously thought of as a wealthy, Western affliction. With a public largely unaware of the causes and appropriate treatments for breast cancer, both unequipped traditional healers and inappropriate hospital treatments (including blanket prescribing of antibiotics) lead to an unnecessarily high breast cancer mortality rate: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/africainvestigates/2015/12/ghana-cancer-ward-151216143623529.html
The New Era of Canadian Sex Work: Bill C-36, introduced this year by the Conservative government of Canada, intends to abolish sex work in Canada by making it illegal to patronize sex workers. The bill ignores the agency and rights of workers by framing all sex workers as victims of an exploitative industry. The reality is that is they may now be accepting work in unsafe conditions by johns who want to avoid criminal charges. Good evidence will be needed for both the effectiveness of the bill in reducing sex work and for the implications it may have for the health and safety of men and women who work in the sex industry. However, it is difficult to collect data on illegal transactions. This Vice documentary investigates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5fXBN80mxs
How You Really Make Decisions: This BBC Horizon doc picks apart the psychology of human decision making. While the link between decision making and public health might not seem so explicitly clear, decisions made by individual people every day about issues such as diet, when to visit the doctor, and risk-taking behaviours all have very real implications for public health. Watch and learn about how ‘thinking fast’ and ‘thinking slow’ contribute to daily decision making: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEvnyBRC06E
In Defense of Food: Michael Pollan’s bestselling book (also highly recommended) has been turned into a documentary by PBS International, airing on December 30th, 2015. Just like the book, it promises to be a critical and comprehensive examination of how politics, science, and marketing by the food industry influence the way we eat. Trailer and factsheet available here: http://pbsinternational.org/programs/in-defense-of-food/
Happy viewing, and please add more in the comments below!
Image source: Peter Taylor via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0