My newest research stream zooms out from family networks and refocuses on unequal neighborhoods as another source of health inequity.
I conceptualized structural racism as the degree to which a place (often a county) concentrates its minorized residents into its most socioeconomically vulnerable neighborhoods (typically defined by Census tracts). To measure this phenomenon, created an index, the Structural Racism Index (S.R.I.), that can quantify, compare, and track the severity of structural racism in every county in the U.S. I also developed a similar index that I call the Environmental Justice Index (E.J.I.). This index combines racial segregation with high-resolution air quality data, and like the S.R.I., the E.J.I. quantifies the degree to which a county’s minoritized residents are concentrated in polluted neighborhoods.
I teamed up with researchers at Emory’s School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta (CHOA) to empirically test the health impact of neighborhood structural racism and environmental injustice on a uniquely vulnerable population: children seeking cancer treatment. Life-saving treatment for childhood cancer often scars people’s lungs and hearts, and survivors live with a heightened risk of pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases throughout their adult lives. Air pollution, specifically fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is a major risk factor for disease onset.
911 calls for emergency medical services (E.M.S.) increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. With researchers at UCLA and Princeton University, I am examining how delays in 911 emergency responses during COVID-19 differed by neighborhood characteristics. We are analyzing a restricted national registry of E.M.S. activations (over 120 million calls between 2018 and 2021) that includes patient characteristics, detailed medical codes, time stamps, and neighborhood context.