Biological risk and infection profiles of young adult male mexican american gang members

Alice Cepeda, Kathryn M. Nowotny, Jessica Frankeberger, Jarron M. Saint Onge, Avelardo Valdez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Little research has examined the long-term health consequences of gang affiliation among Mexican Americans. The objectives of this study were to (1) measure biological indicators of cardiovascular and metabolic risk, as well as prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), in a sample of Mexican American men aged 25-40 who were affiliated with gangs as adolescents and (2) compare those indicators with a comparable national sample of Latino men. Methods: Using bivariate analyses, we compared blood pressure, body mass index, 4 metabolic and cardiovascular indicators, and 4 infections for 179 Mexican American formerly gang-affiliated men in San Antonio, Texas, and 155 Mexican American men from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. We used multivariate models to estimate adjusted risk scores for each sample controlling for age, marital status, and education. Results: Compared with men in the national sample, the unadjusted results showed that men in the gang-affiliated sample had significantly higher mean systolic blood pressure (125.6 vs 120.0 mm Hg, P ¼ .001), diastolic blood pressure (81.4 vs 71.1mm Hg, P < .001), and C-reactive protein (5.9 vs 3.6 mg/L, P ¼ .04), and a significantly lower mean total cholesterol (164.2 vs 205.5 mg/dL, P < .001) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (91.1 vs 120.1 mg/dL, P < .001). Compared with men in the national sample, more men in the gang-affiliated sample had herpes simplex virus type 2 (64/174 [36.8%] vs 18/147 [12.2%], P < .001), chlamydia (10/176 [5.7%] vs 1/135 [0.7%], P ¼ .02), and hepatitis C virus (85/173 [49.1%] vs 0, P < .001). The gang-affiliated sample had a significantly higher adjusted risk score than the national sample (1.5 vs 1.1, P ¼ .003). Conclusions: Gang-affiliated Mexican American men had significant disparities in biological risk indicators and STIs, which can lead to long-term health implications and highlight the need for tailored prevention strategies. Long-term exposure to psychosocial stressors and subsequent systemic inflammation may also increase the risk for physiological and psychological dysregulation and detrimental chronic health conditions in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-558
Number of pages8
JournalPublic health reports
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Biomarkers
  • Health disparities
  • Infection
  • Mexican American
  • Sexually transmitted infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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