Enhancing the resources available to low-income, urban African American women to make their neighborhoods safer could protect them against poor health and symptoms of depression, says Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine community health researcher Adam Becker.
The study appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Urban Health.
“Low income urban communities that are racially segregated and have high concentrations of poverty have abundant conditions that create stress for residents,” says Becker. “Those stressors contribute to poorer health outcomes. Our research shows the value of supporting women's efforts to improve their neighborhoods.”
Becker explains that previous research has suggested a feeling of control over one's own life and one's choices can protect against depression and poor health. This may be true but Becker cautions that feeling responsible for their communities while seeing little evidence of change in specific priority issues such as crime and safety may contribute to symptoms of depression and erosion of health.
“We found that women who feel powerful in their organizations and in their neighborhoods in general but still feel unsafe in their community experience additional frustration,” Becker says. “Worries about personal and neighborhood safety were consistently linked to poor health and more frequent depressive symptoms.”
Becker recommends that organizations collaborating with people in poor urban environments need to work with them to enhance political influence and the responsiveness of policymakers to contribute to community change.
Becker, his co-authors at the University of Michigan, and their colleagues in the East Side Village Health Worker Partnership interviewed 679 African American women living in the east side of Detroit, Mich. The Partnership involves representatives from academic institutions, health agencies, and community-based organizations. They collected data about personal health, symptoms of depression, household income, worries about safety in the neighborhood, women's perceptions of control over their lives, the organizations to which they belong, and their neighborhoods. The Partnership worked together with women residents of the east side to discuss the results from the survey, and to use those results to plan and implement local interventions designed to improve women's health through improved neighborhood conditions.