Findings will have statewide and national importance toward promoting a culture of health

The new Rutgers study will aim to improve health equity in New Jersey

Residents of two Trenton ZIP codes can expect to live to about 74 years old on average, but in neighboring communities within a 13-mile radius, life expectancies can be more than a decade longer.

Such striking disparities can be found all across New Jersey, but what drives these differences?

A new study by the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, aims to improve the understanding and generate knowledge about factors that affect population health and opportunities to advance equity promoting policies in the state.    

The New Jersey Population Health Cohort Study will collect biometrics, survey responses and other granular data over time on major outcomes such as stress, resilience, trauma and cognitive function from a broad cross-section of the population across multiple generations, with additional targeting of low-income residents and diverse immigrant groups.

Groups within the immigrant population can have very different experiences, and more refined  data are needed to address major gaps in the understanding of social and cultural determinants of health and development of effective programs and services, said lead researcher and IFH Director XinQi Dong.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to design a complex analysis of this magnitude at the Institute,” Dong said. “Findings will not only have statewide impact in New Jersey, but will also promote the cornerstones of a culture of health nationally.”

Researchers are now beginning the 12-month design phase, planning the best methods for sampling across multiple generations, which will allow for life-course analyses and in-depth consideration of factors such as social and cultural factors, acculturation and family heritage.

In addition, researchers are exploring ways to link information on study participants with existing data sources to expand the potential for understanding the impacts of other forces such as social, biological and economic factors, the environment, health care delivery, and policy on health.

“The result will be a unique resource that will allow New Jersey to understand disparities and address the pressing health needs of people across the state,” said Joel C. Cantor, co-lead researcher and director of the Institute’s Center for State Health Policy.

The study is expected to begin in 2020, with the first complete round of data collection by 2024. The study will be designed for additional rounds of data collection to establish a long-term cohort.

Support for the design phase of the New Jersey Population Health Cohort Study is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.