Research will unveil intersection of policing and cognitive health in aging populations

February 21, 2024

In an effort to unravel the link between adverse community-level policing and disparities in Alzheimers disease-related dementia, Dr. Paris (AJ) Adkins-Jackson, an assistant professor in Epidemiology, and associate in Sociomedical Sciences, has secured a substantial grant from the National Institute on Aging. The groundbreaking research, titled "The Role of Adverse Community-Level Policing Exposure on Disparities in Alzheimer's Disease Related Dementias and Deleterious Multidimensional Aging," will shed crucial light on the profound impact of structural racism on cognitive well-being among older adults.

Drawing inspiration from the resilience of communities and pioneers of literature on racism and dementia, Dr. Adkins-Jackson will embark on a journey to challenge prevailing narratives surrounding racialized health disparities.

Dr AJ with her grandmother, who she is a co-caregiver for.

"I am inspired by those who come before me. I always admired the adults in my neighborhood that after experiencing a police-involved shooting or police raid, these adults held their heads high trying every single day to find peace and joy. I proposed this study hoping to demonstrate what we know in our bodies about how structural racism affects health. I tell this story through the eyes of our elders and those that come before so that their providers and the scientists that benefit from the taxes paid to fund research, can know that our elder’s health was produced by a legacy of racism. A legacy that can be changed."

Dr. Adkins-Jackson will examine three pivotal historical periods: 1) after the US Reconstruction Era when Jim Crow segregation proliferated and state-santionced lynchings were used to reinforce inequity (1882-1968); 2) after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 when predominately Black neighborhoods were ghettoized and the 1968 Crime Bill and Drug Acts of 1970 and 1986 inspired increased policing of said ghettos and ultimately police-involved killings (1969-1990); and 3) after the 1994 Crime Bill provided incentivizes and funding to police departments and prisons to increase quotas leading to greater arrests and incarceration of people racialized as Black.

"I desperately hope that this research will inspire support for aging populations. Our elders have endured and survived a changing world, often in the face of the world’s (and this country’s) worst. There is a dire need to allocate resources to change structural determinants, like racism, now in order to ensure the longevity of the next aging generation."

By illuminating the pervasive influence of early life exposures and determinants on dementia risk, Dr. Adkins-Jackson's research promises to catalyze a shift in the approach to aging and dementia research.