The lower a neighborhood’s socioeconomic status is, the more likely its Black residents are to develop heart disease and stroke, according to a new Drexel University-led public health study.
While many neighborhood-level public health studies focus on physical aspects of a neighborhood — such as the availability of affordable, healthy foods or the walkability of the location — this study examined how a neighborhood’s social and economic makeup was linked to the development of cardiovascular disease.
“This 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,” said Dr. Sharrelle Barber, a research fellow at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, who led the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Barber and her team — which included Dornsife School of Public Health Dean Ana Diez-Roux — looked at heart disease and stroke incidence from 2000 to 2011 among Black men and women who participated in a National Institutes of Health project called the Jackson (Mississippi) Heart Study. This information was linked to data on neighborhood poverty, unemployment and other socioeconomic indicators from the 2000 U.S. Census, along with other data on violence and disorder.
Barber and her team found that every step down on an established disadvantage scale resulted in a 25 percent increase in risk of cardiovascular disease.
When they measured violence and disorder levels in neighborhoods, there was a similar increase in risk of cardiovascular disease for each negative step on the scale.
When it comes to examining chronic disease risk, Dr. Barber feels it is “critical” to delve deeper and identify true root causes so that policies and strategies can be as effective as possible. Among the issues that clearly need addressing are violence and disorder.