USC Partners with UCLA and Los Angeles County to Launch Healthy Aging Research Initiative

The program will study issues facing older adults in LA County.

September 11, 2014

Two investigators from the USC School of Social Work are among awardees in the first year of the Healthy Aging in Los Angeles Team Science Award, a new cross-institutional and cross-community program established to advance research on aging and promote health for adults over 50.

William Vega, PhD, provost professor and executive director of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, will lead a project to develop a set of metrics that will be integral to the creation of the first comprehensive inventory of aging and health issues in LA County.

Included in the inventory will be the needs of the older population, the services and resources available, and the effectiveness of different interventions. An "Aging Los Angeles Score Card" will be developed, and the architecture for a comprehensive indicator system will be designed and validated to support the research functions of the Healthy Aging Initiative in cooperation with UCLA partners.

"Decision-makers need clear metrics to get a meaningful picture of what's really going on in the community," said Vega. "We'll develop a framework to use many sources of data to compare different areas of the community, and determine what interventions are having a positive effect, and what types of interventions would be important to implement."

Maria Aranda, PhD, associate professor in the USC School of Social Work with a joint appointment in USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, will develop an inventory of mental health and substance abuse interventions for older adults and the sociocultural adaptations that may have been necessary to enhance the acceptance of such interventions for diverse groups. “An estimated 20% of older adults suffer from such issues,” said Aranda.

According to recent census data, more than 10 million people live in LA County, of whom approximately 2.5 million are over the age of 50. It is also diverse, with many ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, and linguistic distinctions, pointed out Aranda.

"Researchers and practitioners have developed any number of evidence-based interventions that have been successful, but most have never been tested in communities as large and complex as Los Angeles County," said Aranda. "We must understand not just what works, but what's going to be sustainable in the long-term for the various agencies and groups that provide care for the county's residents."

The Healthy Aging program partners the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) with the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute. The two CTSIs are co-sponsoring the research initiative with LA County's two primary public health agencies, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH). Each one-year award will provide $50,000, to be matched by an equal dollar amount or in-kind support from the research team's home institution.

Team-based research is central to the design of the healthy aging initiative. Research teams must include co-investigators from either DHS or DPH, at least one community-based health service or organization, and at least one partner from SC CTSI or UCLA CTSI.

"The Healthy Aging Initiative brings a critical focus on the importance of cross-institutional collaboration and team science to community health," said Sarah Hamm-Alvarez, PhD, director of Research Development for SC CTSI. "To speed the pace of translation we need to foster more efficient and effective collaboration between institutions and disciplines." 

SC CTSI is part of the 62-member Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) network funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the NIH (Grant Number UL1TR000130). Under the mandate of “Translating Science into Solutions for Better Health,” SC CTSI provides a wide range of resources, services, funding, and education for researchers and promotes online collaboration tools such as USC Profiles.

NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.