Addressing Health Disparities

The Rutgers Institute for Health Care Policy and Aging Research https://ifh.rutgers.edu received $10 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) https://www.rwjf.org and Rutgers University https://www.rutgers.edu, to support the New Jersey Population Health Cohort Study https://ifh.ruters.edu/nj-population-cohort.

This  is the largest study to date to explore factors that influence health and well-being in N.J. Of the total funding, $8 million over four years is being provided by RWJF and $2 million in matching funds will come from Rutgers.

New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation and nearly a quarter of its residents are immigrants. While the state also ranks among the wealthiest, there are significant and persistent health disparities. The study aims to generate new data and insights to help improve health equity in the state.

The Population Health Cohort Study will illustrate a deeper more contextualized understanding of New Jersey’s health inequities and ways in which specific groups experience them. “The research will represent a significant step towards a healthier and more equitable state where all of the diverse population will have greater opportunities” said, Maisha Simmons, Director, New Jersey Grantmaking at RWJF.

In 2021, the study will enroll up to 10,000 participants to reflect a broad cross section of the state’s population with the emphasis on minority and low income communities, multi-generational families, and immigrant groups. The Institute of Health is also partnering with community organizations and key stakeholders to support participation in all aspects of the research process.

The researchers plan to follow participants over time, focusing on factors such as trauma, stress, resilience, and cognitive function by collecting survey responses, biometrics, blood samples, and data on physical activities using wearable technology. The study will also focus on ways in which stress and resilience experience factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their health and well-being.

According to Joel C. Cantor, Co-Lead Investigator and Director of the Center for State Health Policy at the Institute for Health, “Insights from the Cohort Study will help us answer questions such as how does living with multiple generations in the same house affects rates of COVID and the ability to manage stress from the pandemic. Also, how are essential workers from minority communities coping with the pandemic?”

The first round of data collection is expected to be completed by 2024. Researchers are also going to link the study data to other existing sources such as health insurance and environmental data to allow for further exploration of other factors in the future.

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