A Healthier Wisconsin

Structural Discrimination and Health Outcomes in Milwaukee at the Community and Individual Level

Assessing the relationship between structural racism and individual-level factors that influence physical and mental health in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Milwaukee

Full Project Name:Structural Discrimination and Health Outcomes in Milwaukee at the Community and Individual LevelPrincipal Investigator:Terri deRoon-Cassini, PhD, MS, SurgeryCo-Investigator:John Mantsch, PhD, Pharmacology and Toxicology; Carissa Tomas, PhD, Institute for Health and Equity; Lucas Torres, PhD, Marquette University; Rina Ghose, PhD, University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeAward Amount:$200,000
Award Date
Project Duration:24 months

Project Description Narrative:

Milwaukee County is one of the most racially diverse and segregated metropolitan areas in the United States. Structural racism and discrimination are due to the societal structures and policies that limit access to resources and constrict opportunities for traditionally marginalized groups.

A framework provided by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) illustrates that racism and discrimination impact health across multiple levels, from the community to the individual, which have been linked to poor physical and mental health outcomes. Additionally, aspects of structural racism and discrimination, such as living in segregated neighborhoods, make it more challenging to practice health behaviors (e.g., neighborhood safety impacting physical activity and food availability). This perpetuates disparities in our community that reduce the overall health of Milwaukee. Seeing the impact of this systemic issue, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee investigators are partnering with the Social Development Commission, the largest community action agency in Wisconsin, to confront the deleterious effects of structural discrimination in Milwaukee.

This project aims to document the interaction between community- and individual-level factors that promote risk and/or resilience to physical and mental health in the context of racial/ethnic discrimination among Black Americans living in Milwaukee. Building on prior findings demonstrating neighborhood-level variation in the influence of harm reduction strategies on opioid overdoses, researchers will apply multi-scale geographically weighted regression analysis using available georeferenced data to examine relationships among a wide array of indicators of community mental health and measures of structural discrimination. Additionally, utilizing a socioecological framework where they have previously demonstrated how individual socioenvironmental stress impacts health, researchers plan to assess how individual experiences intersect with community-level factors, such as poverty and neighborhood instability, to impact health and resilience.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:

  • Completed recruitment of 200 participants and beginning first round of data analysis
  • Secured additional funding to double original sample size from 200 to 400 participants
  • Strengthened partnership with the Social Development Commission (SDC) to accelerate recruitment efforts ahead of schedule

AHW Logo

8701 W Watertown Plank Road,
Milwaukee, WI 53226-0509
(414) 955-4350