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Neighborhood Environment and Health

It is well understood that urban black males are at a disproportionately high risk of poor health outcomes. But little is known about how the neighborhood environments where these men live contribute to their health.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) examined the relationship between area-level characteristics and individual-level neighborhood perceptions in urban Philadelphia and assessed their associations with indicators of the physical and mental health of recently injured, black men.  “Racial, socioeconomic and neighborhood disparities persist, and it is helpful to distinguish between the effects of what objectively exists in a neighborhood (such as crime rate) from what people perceive about their environment (such as feeling safe),” said lead-author Aimee Palumbo PhD, MPH, who conducted this investigation during a post-doctoral fellowship at the Penn Injury Science Center.

They used self-reported physical and mental health for the thirty days before these men were injured. They made two discoveries: increased odds of poor mental health were associated with neighborhood economics and education and individual perceptions of social disorder and safety; and increased odds of poor physical health was associated with neighborhood deprivation and disconnectedness.

“The analysis of the contribution of area-level characteristics and individual-level perceptions of neighborhood environment to the mental and physical health of recently injured, urban black males is an important step toward understanding factors that contribute to health in vulnerable populations,” said Therese S. Richmond, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, the Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing, Associate Dean for Research & Innovation, and senior investigator for the study.

The researcher’s findings have been published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in an article titled “Neighborhood Environment and Health of Injured Urban Black Men.” In addition to Palumbo (Temple College of Public Health) and Richmond, Douglas J. Wiebe, PhD, Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, and Nancy Kassam-Adams, PhD, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, also served as co-authors.

This research was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health (award number R01NR013503) and by the Penn Injury Science Center and the Centers for Disease Control (grant number R49CE002474).