MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Alison Culyba, MD MPH
Adolescent Medicine Advanced Research Fellow
Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
PhD Candidate, Epidemiology
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Culyba: Youth violence is a major public health problem. Homicide is the second leading cause of death among all adolescents in the U.S., and the number one cause of death among African American adolescents. Prom prior research, we know that where you live and where you spend time has a major impact on health, and that making changes to environments, such as greening vacant lots and remediating abandoned buildings, can significantly reduce crime. However, much less is known about the relationship between adolescent’s immediate surroundings and the risk of homicide. The goal of this study was to examine associations between neighborhood environmental features, such as streets, buildings, and natural surroundings and adolescent homicide. We conducted a population-based case control study of 143 adolescents, ages 13 to 20, who were victims of homicides in Philadelphia and 155 matched controls in the same range, who were outdoors in Philadelphia at the same time that the homicides occurred. To assess features in the immediate environments of homicide victims and control individuals, trained field staff stood on the street corner of each homicide and control location and took a series of photographs that we stitched together into 360-degree high resolution panoramas, which we assessed for environmental features. After accounting for many individual and neighborhood contextual factors, we found that the odds of homicide was significantly lower in locations with street lighting, pedestrian infrastructure, public transportation, parks, and maintained vacant lots.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Culyba: The findings from this study suggest that features of our immediate surroundings, such as parks and pedestrian infrastructure, may be important in the risk of homicide. From this study alone, we cannot determine if any of the features we identified actually cause a decrease in homicide. But our findings have helped us identify which neighborhood features might be important to consider in future intervention trials. We are encouraged that many of our findings are in keeping with other recent research which has demonstrated that simple, low-cost remediation strategies, such as greening vacant lots, can lead to significant reductions in less severe crimes.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Culyba: Based on this study and findings from prior research, several features emerged that should be considered in future intervention studies, such as parks, remediated vacant spaces, lighting, and pedestrian infrastructure, so that we can study whether simple, low-cost place-based interventions can reduce adolescent homicide.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Culyba: It is essential that we continue to conduct research and design evidence-based youth violence prevention interventions that target multiple levels including individuals, families, neighborhoods, and larger socioeconomic factors. Understanding how improving neighborhood contexts may safeguard youth is an essential component of this large-scale effort to keep youth safe.
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Citation: JAMA publication:
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Dr. Alison Culyba (2016). Could Busy Streets and Improved Environment Reduce Teen Homicides? MedicalResearch.com