Population Health

June 22, 2022

Understanding the role of historical residential segregation on pediatric injury and violence

Image of a Seattle Medic One responding to an emergencyApproximately 265 pediatric deaths occurred as a result of injury or violence in Washington state in 2020. A team of researchers from the University of Washington and hospitals around the state are collaborating on a new Population Health Initiative-funded pilot project, “Residential Segregation and Pediatric Injury and Violence in Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma,” to better understand risk factors to these deaths. Leading the team is Chelsea Hicks, PhD, MPH, a T32 postdoctoral fellow at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, who, with collaborators, is seeking to determine the relationship between residential segregation, the built environment and pediatric injury and violence in major areas of Washington state to inform mitigation efforts tailored to the needs of specific communities.

“As a team, we’re thinking beyond what redlining did historically in terms of its effects on Black and Brown communities and communities of lower socio-economic status. We wanted to use the concept of residential segregation to acknowledge that historical decisions have evolved into modern social determinants of health in which we see disparities in injury and violence outcomes,” explained Hicks.

Historic redlining in the United States has exacerbated many disparities, including fewer green spaces, subordinate built environment conditions and poorer housing quality and access to resources. The health outcomes generated by these disparities are of particular interest to Hicks and her team, as they dive deeper into how residential segregation impacts pediatric health and safety.

To determine this association, Hicks and her team – which includes UW faculty and fellows from the School of Medicine, School of Social Work and College of Built Environments – plan to create a conceptual framework that pieces together the relationship between built environments and residential segregation and pediatric injury and violence exposure. They will analyze trauma registries from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma and Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, each located in Washington state cities with histories of residential segregation, to draw conclusions on these associations based on patterns between pediatric patients’ injuries and demographic information.

“If we find specific locations where violence is occurring, we can then develop a needs-based assessment for communities and talk directly to families and children to capture a true understanding of what’s happening in the community,” said Hicks. “Then, community members can work alongside us to identify places of intervention and even work to create policy changes, if necessary, for better resourced and built environments.”