Rising Heart Failure Risk in Redlined Communities: An Unseen Consequence of Historic Racial Bias
Redlined Neighborhoods: The Unseen Catalyst for Heart Failure among Black Adults
Historically redlined neighborhoods continue to shape the health outcomes of their residents in unexpected ways. A new study published in the American Heart Association’s scientific journal, Circulation, reveals that Black adults residing in these zip codes are burdened with an alarming 8% higher risk of heart failure compared to their counterparts in non-redlined areas.
Redlining, an infamous discriminatory lending practice, had its roots in the early 20th-century US when banks routinely denied loans and insurance to people of color seeking homes outside undesirable city regions. This practice, beginning in the 1930s, escalated segregation before its eventual prohibition in the late 1960s.
The Underlying Socioeconomic Distress: A Key Contributor
The study further highlights that around half of this increased heart failure risk can be traced back to elevated levels of socioeconomic distress prevalent among Black adults living in historically redlined communities. This is just one of the numerous legacies of unjust redlining practices.
Photo Credit: American Heart Association
A detailed analysis of data from over 2.3 million residents enrolled in Medicare from 2014 to 2019 reveals an intriguing picture. This comprehensive dataset, mapped with corresponding residential ZIP codes across the US, includes 801,452 participants who identified as Black adults and nearly 1.6 million participants who self-identified as non-Hispanic White adults.
Other Health Disparities: Hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes
The health disparities in these neighborhoods are not limited to heart failure. Hypertension and Type 2 diabetes are among the other ailments that disproportionately affect Black residents in these communities, as per previous American Heart Association research.
The Lingering Impact of Historic Redlining Practices
“The relationship between historic redlining practices and people’s health today gives us unique insight into how historical policies may still be exerting their effects on the health of many communities,” said Dr. Shreya Rao, study co-author, a cardiologist, and an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Unlike Black adults, however, White adults living in communities with a high proportion of redlining did not demonstrate a higher risk of heart failure, emphasizing the impact of these policies specifically on Black communities.
“These findings show us the harm that discriminatory and racist housing policies have had on generations of Black adults and suggest the long-term impact of such policies on cardiovascular health disparities,” remarked Dr. Ambarish Pandey, another co-author and an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The research thus underscores the importance of addressing not just the direct health determinants but also the underlying social and economic factors that continue to shape the health outcomes of different racial and ethnic groups.