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Researchers analyzed data collected from black men and women in Jackson, Miss., who participated in a government-funded study between 2000 and 2011. They also reviewed information collected in the 2000 U.S. Census.
Every decrease on a scale of socioeconomic status was associated with a 25 percent rise in heart disease risk, the researchers found.
When the researchers assessed violence and disorder levels in neighborhoods, there was a similar increase in risk of heart disease for each negative step on the scale. But, the research didn't prove neighborhood conditions caused poor health.
"For decades, centuries, even, researchers have linked adverse neighborhood economic and social conditions to health," said study leader Sharrelle Barber.
Violence and disorder are among the issues that need to be addressed, said Barber, a research fellow at Drexel University's School of Public Health in Philadelphia.
"These are symptoms of the broader issues of racial and economic inequality that is rampant in urban areas across the United States," she said in a university news release.
These issues arise from decades of concentrated poverty, she added. Particulars included limited opportunities for good jobs, proper education and other resources necessary for the individual and community well-being, Barber said.
"One way of addressing this issue is to invest in economic and social policies at the neighborhood level -- such as creating jobs and educational opportunities -- in tandem with evidence-based efforts to reduce violence," Barber concluded.
The study was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health.
The ongoing Jackson Heart Study involves 5,300 black adults in Mississippi. It's the largest single-site study of heart disease in a black American population, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Drexel University, news release