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Redlining Linked to Asthma Racial Health Disparities, Inequities

By Sarai Rodriguez

June 21, 2022 - The shadows of historic racist policies such as redlining continue to impact present-day health outcomes, leaving Black people to bear the burden of health inequities, according to a recent analysis by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health revealing asthma racial health disparities.

The NIH-funded study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, examined how racism—rather than race—worsened asthma severity and perpetuated racial disparities for Black people.

“We directly link racist loaning practices more than 80 years ago to the maintenance of poor environmental quality in the most redlined neighborhoods today,” lead author Alexander Schuyler, MD, PhD, a student in Pitt’s Medical Scientist Training Program, said in a public statement. “Our data, in turn, connects the higher pollution exposures to worsened asthma outcomes. In short, institutional racism – not race-based biology – is why many Black Pittsburghers experience severe asthma.”

During the 1930s, the Homeowners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) created a four-tiered grading system for mortgage applications based on racial discrimination, also known as redlining, in over 200 cities, including Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Predominantly Black or immigrant neighborhoods were deemed “undesirable” for home loans and other financial investments in healthcare, business, and industry.

The corporation assigned an “A” score to neighborhoods it deemed “best” and a “D” score to neighborhoods it called “hazardous” for mortgage lending. “D” neighborhoods had the highest proportion of Black residents.


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