The National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded a five-year, $3 million research grant to researchers at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) and the University of Richmond to create and harmonize important data exploring the association of structural racism with health in the United States.
The grant will allow a multidisciplinary research team to expand upon groundbreaking work published in 2022 by researchers from NCRC and our academic partners, which makes it possible for the first time to precisely connect historic redlining maps to data on present-day health and economic outcomes.
“Redlining continues to impact communities in many ways including increased segregation, diminished economic opportunity and also in worse public health,” said Bruce C. Mitchell, PhD, Senior Research Analyst at NCRC and a co-author of the 2022 paper. “This work will not only deepen our understanding of redlining’s history, but also how policymakers can best address its complex, lingering effects in the present day.”
“We will bring together and harmonize various siloed data sources on neighborhood factors, including place-based measures like census data, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, and other historic structural racism indicator data,” Dr. Helen Meier, assistant research scientist in ISR’s Survey Research Center and a co-author of the 2022 paper said. “There are many existing resources from different disciplines that are siloed.”
Meier and Mitchell’s previous work focused on health data in demonstrating one utility of their methodological breakthrough. But the NIH grant will allow the organizations to expand to other areas of analysis as well, from historical environmental hazards to housing parameters, demographics and social conditions. The new and existing data, once harmonized, will then be linked to data concerning health research and other long-term trends to create a sharper picture of the effects of structural racism on health.
Researchers in entirely separate fields will also benefit from this work, Meier said, because the grant will help researchers discover and access data that may have previously been unavailable simply because it may not have appeared relevant to their field.
“When you have data in all these different places, it’s usually only the people who work in that field that know about it and use it. But our multidisciplinary team is working to overcome that,” Meier said. “We’re the epitome of team science by including everybody from a biostatistician that specializes in spatio-temporal modeling to epidemiologists and experts on aging, to digital historians, to geography and housing experts. We’re truly bringing together the experts from different fields to make this happen.”