Public health researchers find potential association between police brutality, STI rates

September 12, 2019

Rollins researchers, in collaboration with colleagues from other U.S. universities, have shown a possible link between police killings of black people and rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The research was recently published in BMJ Journals.

“Our study is adding to the growing evidence base that police brutality is not just a human rights issue, it is also a significant public health problem,” says Umedjon Ibragimov, PhD, MPH, research assistant professor at Rollins and first author on the paper. 

The study found that rates of two STIs were higher in metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) that had more police killings of black people. Specifically, in 2016 each additional police killing of a black person was associated with MSA-level syphilis rates that were 7.5 percent higher among black adults than average. Likewise, each killing of a black person in these MSAs was associated with MSA-level gonorrhea rates that were 4.0 percent higher than average.

Authors stress that findings should be interpreted with caution, and the study design does not allow them to know with absolute certainty that police killings cause increases in STI rates.

Hannah Cooper, ScD, is senior author of the study. Other contributing authors from Rollins include Stephanie Beane and Justin Smith.