Researchers Find Link between Black Mothers, Disease and Gun Violence

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found a link between black mothers and disease through gun violence.  The study conducted in the Englewood neighborhood found black mothers of gun violence victims are more vulnerable to disease through gun violence than mothers of other ethnicities.

Dr. Ruby Mendenhall with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine said black mothers raised in cities with high crime rates, like Chicago, have attained traumatic memories known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These memories include community violence (shootings), sexual abuse, and the death of a parent.

That being added into the fact of having to raise a child in addition to witnessing trauma of a similar kind in an unprivileged area.  Black mothers having those experiences replay in their minds puts their bodies under constant stress.

“When you’re encountering trauma, you release the ‘stress response’,” explained Dr. Mendenhall, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation. “You have these hormones that are raging when you’re constantly in this “fight or flight” mode that wears on the body”

The constant tensity on the body leaves black mothers vulnerable to illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension.  Dr. Mendenhall said this cycle of trauma comes from the history of racism and segregation against black Americans in terms of housing, and employment.

“It goes back as far as slavery and ‘redlining’,” Dr. Mendenhall shared. “Many black Americans also didn’t have living-wage jobs after factories shut down due to deindustrialization”  As a result, Black residents suffer by not having access to the resources necessary to help prevent the disease.

“Health insurance is often linked to having a job,” Dr. Mendenhall said “We also have food deserts in communities of color, where they have to travel far distances to get fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Starting this July, the Carle Illinois College of Medicine will be partnering with the MacArthur Foundation to train 50 black and Latinx young adults to educate Chicago residents on how to grow fresh goods and prevent disease. The program will be launched in neighborhoods, such as Englewood, West Englewood, Little Village, and Austin.

For more information on the Community Health Worker Program, contact samyral2@illinois



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