How Neighborhood Impacts Health and Well-Being for Low-Resource, Single-Parent Families: PRC Researcher Doug Wiebe

Health and Social Care in the community - Journal GraphicIn the April 2016 issue of Health and Social Care in the community,  UPenn PRC Training and Evaluation Core Lead Doug Wiebe, Ph.D, and colleagues investigate factors in the physical and psycho-social well-being of low-resource, housing-unstable, single parent families living in violent neighborhoods in Philadelphia

The researchers looked at families who were participants in a housing-plus program in Philadelphia and the relationship between the characteristics of the neighborhoods in which the families lived and their perceptions of well-being and safety. Noting that health dynamics in this population are “not well-described,” the researchers sought to contribute a better understanding of how the stresses of where one lives impacts how well one can live.

Among the key findings:

  • Parents of low-income, single-parent families who participate in a housing support program in an urban setting with high community violence met or exceeded the US national average for self-reported physical health but fell below the national average across all mental health domains, including symptoms for moderate to severe depression.
  • These parents described high levels of stress resulting from competing priorities, financial instability, and concern for their children’s well-being and safety.
  • External markers of violence (crime rates) in their proximate neighborhood affected how parents and children conducted their daily activities and moved within their neighborhoods.


Penn Study says Mandatory “Ignition Interlocks” Reduce Drunk-Driving Deaths By 15%

doug-wiebe  A new study in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, shows that states with mandatory interlock laws see a 15 percent reduction in drunk driving-related deaths compared to states without legislation requiring DUI offenders to use “mandatory ignition interlock.”  According to the study, state laws that require drivers who’ve been convicted of drunk driving to pass a breathalyzer-type test before starting their cars saved an estimated 915 lives between 2004 and 2013.

   “Although crashes and crash fatalities decline, we’re not seeing a significant reduction in those involving alcohol,” said the study’s senior author, Douglas J. Wiebe, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology in the department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, a senior scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and UPenn PRC Training Core Lead.  “We’re encouraged by the increasing number of states enacting mandatory interlock laws since 2013 and hope these findings advance public health conversations aimed at saving more lives.”

Car crashes involving alcohol make up 30 percent of vehicular fatalities, resulting in 11,000 deaths each year. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates that for each of the million drunk driving convictions each year, there are 88 previous instances of drunk driving. Previous research on mandatory interlock laws focused on recidivism rates, but the new Penn study serves as the first national analysis of the impact of a universal interlock requirement on alcohol-involved crash deaths.



Gun violence: location a key risk factor, according to Doug Weibe, PRC Core Lead

In the January 2016 issue of Epidemiology, Doug Wiebe, PhD, UPenn PRC Training Core Lead, and other health researchers from the University of Pennsylvania analyze detailed activity paths of urban youth to investigate the interplay between their lived experiences, time spent in different environments, and risk of violent assault.


Since gunshot violence is now the leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-old African American males and the second-leading cause of death among all males in that age group in the United States, identifying the factors in exposure to violence by guns and other weapons is critical. A key finding is that location matters.


Building on research which suggests youth violence is the end result of a web of factors that include alcohol use, access to firearms, and disadvantaged urban environments, Wiebe and his co-authors developed a new approach for studying the dynamics of activities in an urban environment. They found that the context of young people’s activities and characteristics of the places they spent time put them at risk to be assaulted or protected them from being assaulted, and certain activities appeared to trigger the onset of assault.

Examining The Use Of Fear In Urban Violence Prevention Programs


In the July 23, 2015 edition of Injury Prevention, UPenn PRC’s Doug Wiebe, PhD., joins researchers Jonathan Purtle, Rose Cheney, and Rochelle Dicker in examining the impact of fear appeal persuasive messaging on violence prevention programs in urban communities.

As an alternative to fear appeal, the authors recommend violence prevention programs that embrace trauma-informed practice and a social-ecological approach. Trauma-informed practice acknowledges prior exposures to violence and provides services that recognize the social, emotional, biological, and cognitive impacts of those experiences.

Read the article here.

Purtle JCheney RWiebe DJ, et al