Study Finds a Direct Link Between Neighborhood Status and Health for African Americans

A recent study led by Sharrelle Barber, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Urban Health Collaborative in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia, finds that the lower a neighborhood’s socioeconomic status is, the more likely its Black residents are to develop heart disease and stroke. The study used data on heart disease and stroke from participants in the large Jackson [Mississippi] Heart Study. The analysis compared health data to neighborhood poverty, unemployment, and other socioeconomic indicators from the 2000 U.S. Census and other data on violence and disorder. The results showed a direct correlation between health and neighborhood status.

Dr. Barber explains that this study “is an important contribution because it is the largest study among Blacks to look at the link between neighborhood socioeconomic status and adverse neighborhood conditions such as violence and disorder in relation to cardiovascular disease.

“These are symptoms of the broader issues of racial and economic inequality that is rampant in urban areas across the United States,” Dr. Barber continued. “These issues arise from decades of persistent, concentrated poverty and disinvestment in communities of color, including limited opportunities for good jobs, proper education and other resources necessary for the full wellbeing of individuals and communities.”

Dr. Barber is a graduate of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she majored in biology. She holds a master of public health degree from the University of North Carolina and a doctorate in social epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The full study, “Neighborhood Disadvantage, Poor Social Conditions, and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence Among African American Adults in the Jackson Heart Study,” was published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health. It may be accessed here.

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