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January 21, 2018
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Statement of Purpose

From Thomas A. Glass, PhD, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology

The Baltimore Neighborhood Research Consortium (BNRC) was established in June of 2002 at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health . The overall aim of the BNRC is to facilitate the advancement of multidisciplinary research on the role of neighborhood characteristics in the health of urban populations. My impetus to create an organization like the BNRC came from a personal need to find out about what kinds of data were available, what others had learned about analyzing those data, and how information and resources could be shared across research groups. At that time, the study of neighborhood effects on health was just beginning. Individual researchers working across various departments and centers at JHU were doing fantastic work. Much of that work, however, was being done in isolation. Each group was having to access the same data sources independently. There was a need for a forum to share ideas, methods, data, and lessons learned, in order to maximize the quality and efficiency of the emerging research program. 

Baltimore is an ideal city for the study of neighborhood effects for many reasons. There is a rich tradition of studying neighborhoodthat goes back at least as far as the pioneering work of Perkins and Taylor. Since the beginning of the BNRC, the study of neighborhood and area-based effects on health has exploded. Increasingly, interest in the social, physical, and built environment and its impact of health has become a "hot" topic in public health. With the prospects of a new department for the study of social and behavioral factors and health at JHSPH, the future looks especially bright for this kind of work. 

For all these reasons, it is my strong belief that the BNRC has and will continue to play an important role as an informal organization of faculty, staff, students, and fellows, who come together monthly to help create a dynamic and productive environment to nurture the further development of cutting-edge research on the role of neighborhood factors in the public's health. 

Activities of the BNRC include:

  • Review of neighborhood studies underway in Baltimore and elsewhere
  • The development of standard measures of neighborhood features of general interest to be made available to the widest possible community of investigators
  • Discussion of data collection strategies
  • Application of the case-control design to neighborhood studies
  • Discussion of GIS and other mapping machineries
  • A forum for the presentation of research findings related to neighborhood influences
  • Development of methods to overlay census data on neighborhood or alternatively defined geographies
  • Sharing of resources across grants to allow for collecting observational and secondary data on all neighborhoods in Baltimore
  • Sharing of data, documentation of data, and methods of analyzing data
  • Ongoing discussion of the role of theory in neighborhood studies
  • Assistance and technical support with new grant development