Sharrelle Barber

In Funded Scholars




Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health

Professional Bio

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH is currently a research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Urban Health Collaborative at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health.  Dr. Barber’s current research interests involve understanding the role of structural racism, including concentrated poverty and racial residential segregation, in shaping cardiovascular disease risk and onset among African Americans with a particular focus on residential environments in the Southeastern United States.  To that end, she has conducted both qualitative and quantitative research in a number of Southern communities including rural, Eastern North Carolina, Mobile, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Barber is currently working on a number of projects including examining structural determinants of CVD incidence in the Jackson Heart Study and residential segregation and racial inequalities in CVD risk in a population-based cohort study in Brazil.

Dr. Barber holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Bennett College for Women, a Masters of Public Health degree in Health Behavior and Health Education from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a Doctor of Science degree in Social Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health.

As one with a strong passion for social justice, Dr. Barber is committed to conducting research that broadens our understanding of the role residential environments play in shaping health and contributing to health inequities among racial/ethnic minority groups both domestically and abroad.  Ultimately, she hopes to work with communities through research and advocacy to address the underlying structural determinants of health through social and economic policy initiatives.

Project Name

Examining residential segregation as a fundamental cause of the risk for cardiovascular disease among African-Americans in the Deep South

Project Description

Racial residential segregation results in increased exposure to adverse neighborhood conditions for African Americans and is considered a “fundamental cause” of racial/ethnic health inequities in the U.S. The “Deep South”, a region of the country that has for decades experienced the confluence of racial and economic oppression, is no exception. Despite the well-documented history of discrimination and segregation in this region of the country, relatively few empirical studies have considered residential segregation as a major driver of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among African Americans. Given its persistence, and the continued inequities in CVD risk that exist among African Americans living in the South despite decades of biomedical and behavioral research, understanding more fully the influence of residential segregation on CVD risk and the pathways through which it operates is critical to creating healthier, more equitable communities in this setting. Using a novel spatial measure of neighborhood-level racial residential segregation, this research project aims to: 1) examine the longitudinal association between racial residential segregation and ideal cardiovascular health; and 2) examine the extent to which neighborhood characteristics (i.e. economic, social, and resource features) explain the association. Participants with geocoded information from the Jackson Heart Study will be used for the analyses. Neighborhood-level racial residential segregation will be assessed using the local Gi* statistic. Ideal cardiovascular health will be assessed using the American Heart Association Life’s Simple Seven score. Multi-level and longitudinal analyses will be used to examine associations.

Research Interests

At the core of my research and career objectives is a desire to contribute to the reduction of health inequities among racial/ethnic minorities through innovative social epidemiologic research that examines the intersection of “place, race, and health” in the U.S. with a particular focus on residential environments in the South. As an African American woman born and raised in the South, this intersection has been strikingly evident as I have witnessed firsthand the crippling effects of chronic diseases such as stroke, hypertension, and diabetes; the structural drivers of these conditions in urban and rural areas alike; and the communities of color that shoulder the brunt of these inequities.  The research experiences outlined above further illuminated what I have witnessed my entire life and have given me critical insights into residential settings in the South that continue to inform my research. My ultimate goals is to use the knowledge gained from my research to inform the development of multi-sector, multi-level policies and interventions necessary to build more equitable communities in this region of the country.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2016
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Social Epidemiology, Community Health

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