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Adjacent BR neighborhoods provide evidence for health disparity thesis

Cindy Wonderful placed a barrier sign at the front of her property to prevent more tires from...
Cindy Wonderful placed a barrier sign at the front of her property to prevent more tires from being dumped on her property.(Samantha Morgan | WAFB)
Published: Mar. 20, 2021 at 7:31 PM EDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published March 15, 2021 at 1:38 PM CDT - Updated March 19 at 8:59 AM on www.wafb.com)

BATON ROUGE, La. (Great Health Divide) - Blight isn’t just ugly, it’s a public health risk that has a bigger impact on low-income neighborhoods.

“I think everybody can agree that urban blight is a problem we need to solve here in Baton Rouge,” said Rebeca de Jesus Crespo, assistant professor in LSU’s College of the Coast and Environment.

One step toward solving the problem is to first identify its impact. To study the issue of blight, the research team focused on a portion of Baton Rouge that most ideally represents the different socioeconomic factors, while sharing the same landscape.

“These two neighborhoods are very similar in terms of vegetation cover, human population and density of households. One of the main differences is blight,” de Jesus Crespo explained.

Although side-by-side, the two areas have experienced vastly different factors that led to the economic disparities.

“One neighborhood has a lot of blight in the form of abandoned residences, empty lots and mismanaged waste, and the other neighborhood does not,” de Jesus Crespo added. “It was the perfect set of conditions for addressing this question.”

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The study found that the Old South neighborhood had significantly higher adult and larvae abundance of the Asian tiger mosquito. Although there are roughly 3,500 species of mosquitoes, this particular pest is an aggressive bitter known for carrying West Nile Virus and for transmitting heartworms to pets.

“This is an area at high risk of these mosquito-borne diseases,” said Madison Harrison, co-author of the publication. “All that it takes for these diseases to spread is for the right vector to be infected with the pathogen and to bite humans at the right point of incubation of said pathogen.”

Efforts are underway to revitalize the Old South neighborhood. Below are recent articles we’ve published on the topic.

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“This study highlights the importance of litter and blight removal initiatives in Baton Rouge, like DPW’s dedicated litter crew, Operation Cleanup, and the Blight Bootcamp,” said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. “My office continues to partner with elected officials, state agencies, community stakeholders, business leaders, and citizens across the parish to fight blight, improving our quality of life and health outcomes for all. Learn more about initiatives like this at safehopefulneighborhoods.com.”

Additional collaborators on this project include Rachel Rogers, a graduate student in the LSU Department of Environmental Sciences, and Randy Vaeth from East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control.

Additional Information

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7913609/

https://www.lsuagcenter.com/topics/environment/insects/mosquitoes/education/asian-tiger-mosquitoes

https://www.brla.gov/418/Mosquito-Abatement-Rodent-Control

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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