Teens’ Research Shows an Increase in Heart Disease Deaths in Redlined Communities

By Tamara Thomas - January 6, 2023

Residents of redlined, or “poor financial risk,” neighborhoods had a nearly threefold greater loss of potential life years due to heart disease compared with people living in mapped neighborhoods, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

The research, still considered preliminary until peer review is done, was carried out by Elise and Demir Dilci, 2 high school sophomores from Houston’s Awty International School. As part of a school internship project, the 16-year-olds worked with Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine to study the link between living in neighborhoods that had been redlined in the past and the risk of dying from heart disease.

The teens’ discoveries from the studies and data analyzed were eye-opening. However, for the teens’ mother and study co-author, Dr. Biykem Bozkurt, a cardiologist and professor at Baylor College of Medicine, their findings confirmed what she already knew about structural racism and its link to health disparities. She was aware that previous research had found a link between redlined or racially segregated neighborhoods and poorer health, including a higher risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

“I would like people to know that this is one of the first studies to demonstrate increased cardiovascular mortality rates associated with redlining,” said Elise, who had previously believed that the problem of structural racism had been completely eradicated.

Elise and her brother Demir put together historical redlining maps with neighborhood profiles from the city of Houston and the Department of Health and Human Services. They then compared cardiovascular deaths and years of potential life lost due to heart disease in each of these neighborhoods.

According to their findings, people living in redlined neighborhoods had a 42% higher risk of dying and a nearly threefold greater loss of potential life years due to heart disease. Furthermore, they found that residents of redlined areas were 20% more likely to die of heart disease than residents of areas that weren’t rated on the maps at all.

Elise added that after seeing the results of the analysis, she is even more determined to pursue a career in community medicine and bring attention to the health inequalities that stem from systemic racism. However, she has no plans to sit on the sidelines until she has completed her studies. With her brother, she hopes to do something about these disparities today.


Source: American Heart Association News

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