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Jennifer Ahern awarded major NIH grant to study the effects of community violence on maternal and infant health

The National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development has awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) to Jennifer Ahern, Professor of Epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. The award will fund important research on community violence and its potential effects on maternal and infant health outcomes.

In the United States, preterm delivery and other adverse maternal and infant health outcomes disproportionately affect minority populations. Health agencies have made it a priority to understand this health disparity by looking at the community-level determinants that might impact perinatal health.

Community violence may be one of those determinants, but past research has not clearly established this relationship. With support from this grant, Ahern’s team will rigorously test the hypothesis that community violence increases health disparities by race, ethnicity, and country of birth. The team will also identify the potential mechanisms explaining these effects, such as mental health, social support, substance abuse, and so on. In doing so, the research team aims to reframe violence as a social determinant that impacts a broad range of community health outcomes, and to identify possible points for community-level and clinical public health interventions.

The grant will fund the research team $2.5 million over four years. In addition to Jennifer Ahern, the research team includes Mark van der Laan, William Dow, and Mahasin Mujahid of Berkeley Public Health, Paula Braveman and Kristen Marchi of UCSF, and Kara Rudolph of Columbia University.