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The health risks of poverty, racial discrimination

Alan Flurry

Longitudinal research studies – information about individuals gathered over time – help scientists understand the impacts of endemic phenomena by developing correlations that can be otherwise difficult to trace, despite the chronic negative effects on the population. Growing up in poverty and experiencing racial discrimination affect physical health and the UGA Center for Family Research has been leading longterm investigations of these issues for decades. Now, thanks to a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, that work will continue:

Building on previous research in this area, the grant establishes a P50 Research Center of Excellence led by Gene Brody, a Regents’ Professor in the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research and director of the Center for Family Research. Brody and his team will continue their work studying rural Black families, the challenging circumstances they experience, and the health disparities that result.

Growing up in poverty is a powerful variable that forecasts all facets of development— particularly health—throughout a person’s life, according to Brody’s research. In the United States, he said, 20% of all children live near or below the poverty line, and the figures are higher for rural Black youth, whose poverty rates hover around 50%.

Life span differences

“Because many Black children live in economic hardship, they’re at elevated risk for health problems across their life span,” said Brody, principal investigator for the grant. “They are more likely to have shorter life spans than white residents who grow up in the same places.”

Brody’s team, which includes co-investigators from UGA and Northwestern University, will build on 15 years of research funded by previous NIH Center of Excellence awards to advance next-generation research of risk, resilience and health among Black young people living in the southeastern United States.

Some of the most exciting work from psychology faculty over recent years has relied on the work of Brody's team, as researchers share major breakthroughs in understanding the connections between social conditions and physical health. These are among the most important challenges facing the country and our people, and it's important this work continues and expands. Congratulations to our colleagues.

Image: Regents’ Professor Gene Brody

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