Two USC School of Social Work investigators are determined to advance research on aging for adults over 50.
Provost Professor William Vega, executive director of the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, will lead a project to develop a comprehensive set of metrics capable of providing the first comprehensive inventory of aging and health issues in Los Angeles County.
The system will be designed to support the research of the Healthy Aging Initiative to be conducted with UCLA.
“Decision-makers need clear metrics to get a meaningful picture of what’s really going on in the community,” Vega said. “We’ll 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, associate professor at the USC School of Social Work with a joint appointment at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, will develop an inventory of mental health and substance abuse interventions for older adults.
Understanding what works
An estimated 20 percent of older adults with ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic and linguistic distinctions suffer from such issues, Aranda said. According to recent census data, more than 10 million people live in LA County, of whom approximately 2.5 million are over 50.
Researchers and practitioners have developed a number of evidence-based interventions that have been successful, but most have never been tested in communities as large and complex as LA County, according to Aranda.
“We must understand not just at 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,” she said.
The Healthy Aging Initiative couples the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) with the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute. The institutes are co-sponsoring the research initiative with LA County’s Department of Health Services and Department of Public Health.
“The initiative places a critical focus on the importance of team science to community health,” said Sarah Hamm-Alvarez, 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.”