The National Institutes of Health awarded Penn Medicine researchers a nearly $10 million grant to study the effects of environmental and financial interventions on reducing health disparities in predominantly Black Philadelphia neighborhoods.
The environmental interventions include tree planting and rehabilitating abandoned houses, while the economic interventions will involve connecting participants to food and unemployment benefits, Penn Medicine News reported. Researchers will then examine the impact of these interventions on the overall health of 720 predominantly Black adults from 60 neighborhoods. Half of the participants will receive the interventions.
This project will be led by assistant professor of Emergency Medicine Eugenia C. South and
Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy Atheendar Venkataramani, Penn Medicine News reported.
Venkataramani told Penn Medicine News that the interventions could help reduce health disparities tied to structural racism that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Philadelphia, for example, there is a 20-year gap in life expectancy between poorer and predominantly Black neighborhoods and more affluent, white communities.
“Previous efforts to reduce racial health disparities have been less impactful than we would like because they often only address a small number of the many mechanisms by which structural racism harms health,” Venkataramani told Penn Medicine News. “Our multi-component intervention is designed to address these multiple mechanisms all at once.”
The grant was awarded to researchers at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine from the NIH’s Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity initiative. This initiative was developed to fund "unusually innovative" projects that aim to address health inequalities.
The Penn Medicine researchers hope to show policymakers that meaningful investments in Black communities can improve health and address inequalities, Penn Medicine News reported.