MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Katherine P. Theall, PhD
Global Community Health and Behavioral Services
Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
New Orleans, Louisiana
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: There are stark health disparities in the U.S. by socioeconomic position as well as between racial and ethnic groups. Many of these health disparities may have a root cause in childhood and be driven by social risk factors. The authors report each neighborhood stressor was associated with biological stress as measured by shortened telomere length and cortisol functioning. Many children are exposed to violence and a greater understanding of the effect on children’s health is critical because social environmental conditions likely contribute to health disparities. Socioeconomically disadvantaged communities have a higher exposure to violence. Limitations of the study include its lack of applicability to other demographic groups. The study also cannot establish causality.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Neighborhoods may be important targets for interventions to reduce the impact of violence exposure in the lives of children.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Quasi-experimental or natural experiment designs (e.g., policy evaluation) that examine change in neighborhood conditions and changes in biological stress; longitudinal research that follows children over time to examine long-term impact as well changes in exposure.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: In no way is violence the only source of stress in these kids. Definitely an important one, however, and I think we often may overlook the impact of just witnessing violence or living in communities with higher violence. Furthermore, it’s important to think about the connections between community violence (often stemming from larger structural forces and lack of infrastructure and investment in some neighborhoods), what that does for violence and other stressors in the home, and the ultimate impact on those most vulnerable like children.
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Association Between Neighborhood Violence and Biological Stress in Children
Katherine P. Theall, PhD; Elizabeth A. Shirtcliff, PhD; Andrew R. Dismukes, MS; et al.
JAMA Pediatr. Published online November 14, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2321
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