We propose the Asian RCMAR to advance careers of investigators from underrepresented populations through translational trauma and resilience research amongst one of the most understudied, yet fastest growing populations in the U.S.: Asian American older adults. Such an important focus in research, population and investigators will inform both practice and policy at community, regional and national levels. Asians are the fastest growing yet most understudied US minority group at 21 million people and growing 56% from 2000-2013. Yet, < 1% of NIH research funding in the last 10 years were focused on US Asian populations, with only 3-5 total funded NIH grants/yr that focus on US Asian older adults. Moreover, this population experiences the “Asian Paradox”: while on average, US Asians, are the highest-income earners and the most highly-educated, more Asians, especially older adults, live below the poverty line, are less likely to participate in biomedical research, and suffer disproportional health disparities compared to white Americans. These health inequities are further complicated by the heterogeneity of these immigrant populations, especially with respect to culture, religion, language, sexual identity, and trauma exposure, many of which challenge our assumptions about the “model minority” stereotype. Such exposures and heterogeneities lead to isolation and further removal from opportunities to participate in research, thus restricting benefits conferred from population level research. However, despite this diversity, there are unifying themes across Asian cultures with regard to shared experiences of immigration, trauma, strong family bonds, cultural values and expectations, and the intergenerational nature of the aging process.
Building on two decades of rigorous aging research in minority populations and track records of successful academic achievements, we have leveraged strong existing transdisciplinary partnerships across multiple academic and community institutions to build a center designed to foster the next generation of diverse researchers in a nurturing environment that is conducive to success and promotes highly relevant and rigorous trauma, resilience and health outcomes research among Asian American older adults. We propose the following scientific lines of inquiry:
The AC will play a central role in organizing, integrating, and managing these considerable resources to maximize the overall productivity of our proposed Asian RCMAR. This Administrative Core (AC) includes: 1) recognized experts and leaders in trauma, resilience, and health outcomes research across Asian populations with strong track records of leadership and mentorship; 2) significant resources throughout Rutgers University; 3) a well-designed mentoring infrastructure to support RCMAR Scholars; 4) support for mentors; and 5) strong and broadband connections to both practice and policy at local and national levels. The AC leaders along with the assembled co-investigators, center faculty, executive committee, and internal and external advisory committees have extensive experience in successfully conducting research on the Center’s themes through a cultural lens. Leveraged resources and support will come from institution-wide infrastructure that are substantial and will provide steadfast support in accomplishing our RCMAR mission (Directors, Deans, Dean, Provost, President).
The AC will establish mechanisms and infrastructure that promote optimal communication, interaction, collaboration and integration to foster synergistic work across RCMAR Scholars and faculty. The AC will also ensure that RCMAR Scholars have full access to the time and expertise of the transdisciplinary core faculty, both individually and in collaborative settings across the university. The AC will work with the Executive, Internal, and External Advisory Committees to integrate translational research through perspectives of academic, community, state, and national leadership. The AC will provide strong leadership along with the infrastructure and administrative support needed to orchestrate the Research Education Core (REC), Measurement and Analysis Core (AnC), and Community Liaison and Recruitment Core (CLRC) into an integrated center. AC specific aims are: 1) Oversee all Center activities, ensure effective implementation and fiscal administration and create and sustain mechanisms to enhance integration, coordination and communication across AC, REC, AnC, and CLRC; 2) Maximize and coordinate use of leveraged resources and provide mechanisms for interactions between Scholars, researchers, and colleagues; 3) Provide oversight and support to enhance success of the pilot grant programs, communicate with NIA about pilot studies, ensure that Scholar’s research and mentoring needs are met; 4) Foster interactions and collaborations both at Rutgers University, regionally and nationally including sharing of best practice and participation in data-sharing, methodology and recruitment efforts; 5) Provide systematic, objective and formal evaluation of each core and the Center in order to establish benchmarks and iteratively improve the Asian RCMAR.
The goal of the Asian RCMAR – Research and Education Core (REC) is to increase the number of successful interdisciplinary researchers from underrepresented populations prepared to conduct translational trauma and resilience research focusing on Asian American older adults. The Center in conjunction with the REC will provide an enriched environment that develops Scholars who: 1) understand the biological, sociocultural, psychological, and behavioral sciences with a specific emphasis on knowledge about mechanisms of action underlying trauma and related outcomes at the individual or population level, focusing on Asian elders; and 2) can conduct innovative pilot research that forms the basis for future minority aging research, ultimately designed to improve the lives of older persons and the capacity of institutions to adapt to the needs of our graying society.
To achieve this goal, the REC will be fully coordinated with the Administrative Core and accomplish these specific aims: 1) Build research capacity of a diverse group of scholars focused on translational trauma and resilience research and collaborative efforts with established research scientists; 2) Mentor and train RCMAR scholars in a nurturing, collaborative, and interdisciplinary environment that encourages scholar development in collaboration with colleagues and mentors; 3) Solicit and select up to 20 scholars over 5 years to conduct mechanistic, behavioral, and social aspects of trauma and resilience research; 4) Track and evaluate success of Scholars to develop new lines of research using an iterative evaluation process; and 5) Build institutional sustainability so this RCMAR training supports partnerships and creates a pipeline of new and continued research to build the science and practice of trauma-informed care.
To achieve the successful Scholar development and related successful, innovative pilot research, the REC will implement a 2-year training program with these inter-related components: Formal Training, Pilot Grant/Publication Skills, Grantsmanship Skills, and a Community/Health Policy Experience. The 2-year training program, which will contain the 1-year pilot project, will: 1) allow our RCMAR Scholars the time to not only learn interconnected content that is relevant to their own pilot but also to the broader field; 2) increase structured mentored time to hone career development, grantsmanship, and manuscript skills; and 3) increase the professional, peer, and community partner networks to which Scholars are connected. Such elements of our training program are tailored to our REC leader’s decades-long experience mentoring minority and underrepresented trainees and faculty across the science workforce pipeline. A final innovative aspect of our REC and Center is that we have assembled and made available one of the largest repositories of large datasets on Asian populations health outcomes for scholar pilot research.
While conceptualizing the experiences of trauma, those from East Asia (i.e. Cultural Revolution) may have different experiences than those from South Asia (i.e. Indo-Pakistan War) or those who might have experienced genocide in South East Asia (i.e. Cambodia). Similar heterogeneity persists in the conceptualization and operation of resilience, especially in terms of the differential social and cultural determinants of coping strategies and help-seeking behaviors to buffer the negative outcomes associated with trauma. In our Measurement and Analysis Core (AnC), we will confront these complexities and leverage the assembled AnC faculty talent and use mixed-method approaches to rigorously examine trauma and resilience constructs and subcultural differences across different Asian groups. In addition, we will leverage a multi-level, ecological, life course model while considering social, intergenerational, and cultural norms, not only through traditional public health theories, but also guided by the anthropological, sociological, and behavioral theories.
AnC faculty will bring high scientific rigor in their approach as they have deep experience in: developing and testing measures; quantitative and qualitative research methods; secondary data analyses; harmonizing large datasets; systems science; sociological, anthropological, health services, and behavioral health interventions; and implementing research with community partners. AnC will work with RCMAR Scholars to develop detailed conceptual frameworks applying appropriate theoretical approaches, data gathering instrument design, and will support analysis and interpretation. The specific aims for the AnC are: 1). Support the identification and acquisition of local, regional, national, and global datasets and to promote and facilitate the use of these secondary datasets; 2). Advance and disseminate methods for harmonizing and analyzing data across Asian populations to compare trauma and resilience as it relates to culture and health outcomes; 3) Support the pilot teams in developing, adapting, evaluating, and disseminating analytic frameworks, culturally sensitive metrics and scientifically robust measures for older Asian populations; 4) Develop sustainable trainings regarding the research analytics and evaluation pipeline using cross discipline strategies. 5) Build team science across AC, REC, and CLRC to collaboratively and synergistically advance measurement and analyses issues and their dissemination to fulfill the mission of the Asian RCMAR. By developing and disseminating innovative measurement and methodological approaches in concert with other RCMAR centers, the coordinating center and others, we will help to foster the careers and research of RCMAR Scholars to elucidate the complexities of Asian aging health disparities. Through addressing methodological issues in conducting studies of multiple designs, we will increase investigators’ scientific capacity to conduct transformative research and reduce health disparities in Asian communities.
While overall US Asians are the highest-income, best-educated minority group, more Asians live below the poverty line compared to white Americans, are less likely to enroll in biomedical research, and are more likely than white Americans to experience disparities in many social and health outcomes. Perhaps equally important, there has been inadequate community engagement and support necessary to empower the Asian American community to be fully engaged in biomedical research. These impediments necessitate further development and implementation of sustainable and equitable partnerships among the Asian American community and researchers through collaborative research development and reciprocal transfer of knowledge and expertise to improve the health of the U.S. Asian population.
The New York and Chicago metropolitan areas are the ideal settings for this Asian RCMAR. Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the U.S., growing by 56% between 2000 and 2013. In the New York Metro Area (11 counties in NJ and 7 counties in NY), there was a 36% growth in the Asian American Population.3 Regarding the older adult population, out of nearly 1.5 million AAPI older adults in the U.S., over 12% live in New York and New Jersey. In addition, the New York Metropolitan area has nearly 2.1 million Asian Americans, of which nearly 190,000 are older adults.3 Between 2000 and 2010, there was a 72% growth in the AAPI older adult population in New York, with 120% growth in New Jersey. Illinois has the fifth largest Asian population in the U.S., which is primarily concentrated in the greater Chicago area. From 2000 to 2010, there was a 39% growth in Asian Americans in the Chicago metro area, with a 40% increase living in poverty.
Our RCMAR and this CLRC are founded on decades of our assembled investigators’ deep engagement, trust, and research with a wide range of Asian populations in New York and Chicago areas. Such substantial engagement and relationships will create the essential scaffolding to catalyze an increase the much-needed research and scientific workforce development necessary to reduce disparities among and improve the health of Asian older adults. To accomplish this, we propose a synergistic multi-level strategy that optimizes research recruitment, retention, and engagement through the following specific aims: 1) At the Community Partner Level: Build a sustainable and collaborative community steering committee connecting community and academic institutions for community-engaged, action-oriented health promotion research in Asian older adult populations; 2) At the Individual Community Member and Scholar Levels: Expand community-engaged research capacity among RCMAR Scholars and Asian community members through culturally-appropriate, community-tailored, reciprocal education and training in biomedical and behavioral research to fully understand the barriers, challenges, socio-cultural context of conducting research in and with Asian communities; 3) At the Individual Research Participant Level: Facilitate the recruitment and retention of Asian older adults, through an innovative, culturally, and linguistically appropriate research literacy support tool; 4) Translate RCMAR research findings at community, state, regional and national levels to inform practice and policy coordinating with other RCMAR cores, with National RCMAR Centers and other aging population research centers. Through these systematic, multi-level approaches and based on our deep community and ethnographic experiences over the last decade, our Asian RCMAR will begin to fill the dire gap in research and in the research workforce focused on U.S. older Asians.