Hicken’s research discusses the ways in which structural racism results in racial inequalities in health. Specifically, she examines the intersection of social stress and environmental exposures. Her work supports the idea that non-white racial/ethnic groups are at a greater risk of exposure to environmental toxicants and that social circumstances make them more vulnerable to the toxic effects of these exposures as well. Hicken also studies the excess risk for poor health due to racial residential segregation (and the accompanying unequal neighborhood quality) and broader cultural racism whereby white social values are taken as the norm. In addition to her research, she also works to change the racial balance of researchers, who produce the knowledge on racism, through student and faculty recruitment efforts and organizations that facilitate progress through graduate school for students of color.
No Jargon Podcast
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Questions the focus on modifiable risk factors as the remedy for racial inequalities in health. Draws from sociology and social psychology to argue that, without changing the fundamental social environment, the health inequalities will not change as new modifiable risk factors emerge to maintain the link between racial group membership and health inequalities.
Examines the notion of “vigilance” or the psychological burden of racism on health inequalities. Proposes that, in addition to the measureable risks that stem from structural racism (poor neighborhood quality, mass incarceration, high unemployment), there is a toxicity stemming from the stigma of non-White racial group membership that is driving health inequalities.
Introduces the importance of the social environment to population patterns of kidney disease for clinicians and epidemiologists; an important piece because it discusses the importance of social science frameworks on race and neighborhood to epidemiology and medicine.
Examines the intersection of social exposures, environmental toxicants, and health inequalities, drawing from multiple scientific disciplines. Recommends a fundamental shift in approaches to health disparities to focus on these sorts of cumulative risks and health effects.