June 3, 2022

WSU study shows racial residential segregation is affecting the health of Black youth with diabetes

Racial residential segregation, a form of structural racism, is contributing to health inequity in Black youth with Type 1 diabetes, according to a new study led by Deborah Ellis, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Behavioral Sciences in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences.

Deborah Ellis, Ph.D., is a professor and director of the Division of Behavioral Sciences.

“Effects of Racial Residential Segregation on Black Youth with Type 1 Diabetes,” is included in the official media program for the American Diabetes Association’s 82nd Scientific Sessions, happening now through June 7 in New Orleans. Her study was selected for the program based on its overall excellence in furthering research and treatment for people with diabetes, as well as its potential appeal to the medical and general news media.

Racial residential segregation, or RRS, is a form of structural racism that may affect health through various pathways, including limiting access to resources and increasing exposure to stress. Studies testing the effects of neighborhoods on the health of Black youth with Type 1 diabetes are limited, Dr. Ellis said.

She is attending the meeting in New Orleans with Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences April Carcone, Ph.D., a study colleague.

“We would like to better understand the specific ways that living in highly segregated neighborhood affects the health of children with diabetes. This could be through inadequate access to resources, problems with health care access, stress related to the neighborhood environment, or other factors,” Dr. Ellis said.

Participants were recruited from seven pediatric clinics in Detroit and Chicago, with data collected between 2017 and 2020.Dr. Ellis and team analyzed the racial composition of neighborhoods where Black youth with Type 1 diabetes lived based on information from the United States Census. The average age of the participants was 13.3 years old.

Results suggest that RRS had independent effects on glycemic control even after controlling for effects of family income and neighborhood adversity, Dr. Ellis said.

The findings are consistent with other studies demonstrating negative health consequences of structural racism. Advocacy and policy-making to address such inequities could improve diabetes population health, she said.

Her research focuses on developing behavioral interventions to promote the health of low-income youth and youth of color living with chronic illnesses.

In addition to her presentation at the conference, the study was featured in a news release shared under embargo with registered media in advance of her presentation.

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