Date of Award

1-9-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Lee Rivers Mobley, PhD

Second Advisor

Richard Rothenberg, MD, MPH, FACP

Abstract

Background: The sexually transmitted infections (STIs), chlamydia and gonorrhea, disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. Community attributes like poverty and prevalence of STIs, along with residential segregation and its impact on composition of sexual networks contribute to these disparate rates. The Southeast had the highest rates of chlamydial and gonorrheal infection among the four regions of the United States. Because relationships between race and place can confound national statistics, it is important to examine whether racial disparities within the region are associated with higher rates of infection.

Purpose: The study aims to evaluate local geospatial clustering of gonorrhea and chlamydia rates in the Southeast, and their persistence during 2000-2005 and any associations with residential segregation, income inequality, unemployment and uninsured rates, and race.

Methods: Using the Local Indicators of Spatial Association tests of spatial clustering, cluster maps were created for each STI outcome and year. Independent sample t-tests were then used to examine the difference in means of each community level variable across counties composing the high-rate clusters and all other counties in the region.

Results: Over 60% of counties composing high-rate clusters persisted as high rate clusters over time, and were significantly associated with higher levels of community disadvantage than all other counties (p < 0.01). Overall gonorrhea rates decreased from 2000 to 2005 and chlamydia rates increased, while their associations with community disadvantage remained persistently strong over time.

Conclusions: Counties with higher rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea persist over time and experience persistently higher levels of residential segregation and income inequality, as well as higher unemployment and uninsured rates, and higher proportions of blacks in the population. The social environment and segregated sexual networks may play important roles in the persistently high rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea observed for certain regions within the Southeast. Continued surveillance of reportable STIs and their probable predictors is needed in order to better understand the persistent disparities in STI rates across counties in the Southeast.

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