Home foreclosures. Gentrification. Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
These socially relevant occurrences share two things in common:
- They relate to space and place; and
- They are topics that Antwan Jones has addressed in his work.
Antwan has always been interested in the relationship between space and health, and “how people are attached to their space.” He ties this awareness to his own upbringing.
For his New Connections grant in 2011, Antwan explored mobility as a frame through which to consider health disparities. After studying the existing body of literature about residential mobility and health, Antwan concluded that “when families move around a lot, the health of children and adolescents can suffer.”
Getting more specific, Antwan became interested in exploring weight gain among moving children and adolescents. In two research projects, he concluded that “although moving in itself does not predict gaining or losing weight, the destination matters.”
Antwan points to intuitive changes in destination that can have an effect on weight, such as a presence or lack of parks, playgrounds, schools, and safe streets.
Ultimately, he sees potential for his work to branch out into a broader discussion about mobility that directly addresses other social inequalities, including educational disparities in academic achievement.
“Children have two important contexts: the home environment, and the school environment,” Antwan explains. “Ultimately, I would like to explore both of these contexts throughout the life course and link them to various social inequalities.”
Antwan also has found, however, that it’s not just children who are affected by community-level differences. His current research focuses on adults with coronary heart disease and hypertension, a subject that ties back to his master’s thesis in sociology, which looked at where Blacks and Whites live to determine city-level differences related to coronary heart disease.
Through this work, Antwan hopes to contribute to policy change that will eliminate health disparities.
“We need some kind of change in how we structure neighborhoods if we want more individuals to enjoy a Culture of Health,” Antwan states. “Because good health isn’t just dependent on what we do or don’t do; it’s dependent on the demographic, geographic, and cultural factors of the places we’re in.”
Antwan hopes that by taking steps to make health a shared value, these types of factors will be taken into consideration when discussing a community’s health.