Alcohol Outlets, Gonorrhea, and the Los Angeles Civil Unrest

A Longitudinal Analysis

Published in: Social Science and Medicine, v. 62, no. 12, June 2006, p. 3062-3071

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2006

by Deborah A. Cohen, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Richard Scribner, Angela Miu, Molly M. Scott, Paul L. Robinson, Thomas Farley, Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Didra Brown-Taylor

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This study tests the effect of neighborhood changes on gonorrhea rates. Prior studies that indicate gonorrhea rates are associated with alcohol outlet density and neighborhood deterioration have been cross-sectional and cannot establish causality. After the 1992 Civil Unrest in Los Angeles, 270 alcohol outlets surrendered their licenses due to arson and vandalism thus providing a natural experiment. The authors geocoded all reported gonorrhea cases from 1988 to 1996 in LA County, all annually licensed alcohol outlets, and all properties damaged as a result of the civil unrest. We ran individual growth models to examine the independent effects of changes in alcohol outlets and damaged buildings on gonorrhea. The individual growth model explained over 90% of the residual variance in census tract gonorrhea rates. After the civil unrest, a unit decrease in the number of alcohol outlets per mile of roadway was associated with 21 fewer gonorrhea cases per 100,000 (p<.01) in tracts affected by the Unrest compared to those not affected. Neighborhood alcohol outlets appear to be significantly associated with changes in gonorrhea rates. The findings suggest that efforts to control sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea and HIV, should address contextual factors that facilitate high-risk behaviors and disease transmission.

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