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March 2021 highlights from AJPH

Date: Jan 21 2021

To request a full copy of any of these studies or for information on scheduling interviews with an expert, contact APHA Media Relations

American Journal of Public Health March issue research highlights:

  • COVID-19 widening racial, ethnic disparities in U.S. hunger
  • Wide variation in how transgender women experience discrimination

COVID-19 widening racial, ethnic disparities in U.S. hunger

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing racial and ethnic disparities in food security, according to a new study in the March issue of AJPH.

To conduct the study, researchers surveyed residents of two Black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that are considered food deserts, meaning they have limited access to healthy and fresh foods. Participants, who were surveyed in spring 2020, were drawn from a previous longitudinal study known as Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Eating, Shopping and Health (PHRESH), which began collecting data in 2011.

The new AJPH study found food insecurity was significantly higher in the PHRESH cohort than in the general U.S. population across all time periods. However, within weeks of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, food insecurity in the PHRESH cohort jumped to 37%, an increase of almost 80% since 2018. In comparison, among the general U.S. population, prevalence of food insecurity was 17.7% as of May 2020, an increase of 60% from 2018.

“We observed a significant spike in food insecurity during the first weeks of the pandemic that far outpaced the increase in the general U.S. population,” study authors wrote. “Disparities between our African American cohort and the nation that had gradually narrowed since 2011 are now at the highest levels observed over the past decade.”

[Author contact: Tamara Dubowitz, RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Food Insecurity in a Low-Income, Predominantly African American Cohort Following the COVID-19 Pandemic”]

Wide variation in how transgender women experience discrimination

Discrimination is a prevalent experience among transgender women, but not all experience it the same way, finds a new study in the March issue of AJPH.

Using an intersectional lens of both gender and racial identity, researchers examined baseline data from the Trans*National study, which included more than 600 participants from the San Francisco Bay area. Researchers analyzed the data for differences in experiences of discrimination and differences in HIV prevalence, which disproportionately impacts transgender women.

The study found that Black and Latina participants were significantly more likely than white participants to attribute experiences of discrimination to their intersectional identity. White respondents were more likely than their Black or Latina peers to attribute discrimination to their gender identity. When comparing responses from Black and Latina transgender women, Latinas were often more likely to tie discrimination to their gender identity and intersectional identity.

Nearly one-third of participants were HIV positive, according to the study, with the highest proportion among Black participants.

“Quantitative intersectionality methods highlight the diversity of experiences within the trans women community and reveal potential measurement challenges,” researchers wrote. “Despite facing multiple forms of systemic marginalization, racial/ethnic minority trans women report less discrimination than white trans women. Subjective reporting of discrimination likely undercounts risks among racial/ethnic minorities.”

[Author contact: Paul Wesson, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, California. “Intercategorical and Intracategorical Experiences of Discrimination and HIV Prevalence Among Transgender Women in San Francisco, CA: A Qualitative Intersectionality Analysis”]

Check out the full list of AJPH research papers that published online in our First Look area.

These articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. AJPH is published by the American Public Health Association and is available at

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