Pilot Projects

Through the center grant from the National Institute on Aging, CDHA is able to provide financial support to affiliates who are developing innovative projects likely to receive federal funding. CDHA invites interested investigators to submit proposals for pilot funding.

2021-2022 Pilot Projects

Post-acute Care Access and Disparities among ACO Medicare Beneficiaries during the COVID-19 Pandemic

PI: Jessica Cao
Investigators: Yang Wang, Maureen Smith, and John Mullahy

This pilot project aims to gauge the changes and disparities in post-acute care (PAC) access among Medicare beneficiaries in the UW Health system, a local Medicare Accountable Care Organization (ACO), during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results from this pilot project will be used as the baseline for R01- level studies regarding the effects of the pandemic on PAC utilizations, health outcomes and subsequent health care utilizations and costs among Medicare beneficiaries. The ultimate goal is to make recommendations to the local ACO and beyond on how to improve equitable care access and quality of care for older adults.

Frailty, Aging, and Cancer Survival

PI: John Eason
Investigators: Noelle Loconte (University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and Carbone Cancer Center) and Patrick Varley (University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and Carbone Cancer Center)

The goal of this project is to investigate the role of frailty/aging at the individual level and community level factors in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma survival. In addition to measuring the effect of community disadvantage (e.g. poverty and unemployment), researchers will examine how/if the presence of healthcare organizations in a community mitigate the effect of disadvantage incidence and survival. Eason and colleagues will investigate the role of individual level determinants of health disparities, but will also investigate how access to health care may alleviate cancer survival disparities.

The Nation’s High School Class of 1972 at Retirement: Education and Cognitive Aging Among Mid-Cohort Baby Boomers

PI: Eric Grodsky
Investigators: Rob Warren (University of Minnesota) and Chandra Muller (University of Texas at Austin)

The research team will collect data from the ~14,500 sample members of the precursor to High School and Beyond, the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972. Born mainly in 1953-55, sample members are now in their mid to late 60s. This proposed project would collect, analyze and disseminate data about their current cognition and life circumstances as well as their physiological status as indicated by whole blood, plasma, serum, and other biomarkers. The project has four aims:

  1. Estimate the effects of education from adolescence forward
  2. Assess the role of different aspects of education in producing racial and ethnic disparities in cognitive functioning and impairment in the transition from midlife to older ages
  3. Assess the role of different aspects of education in the relationship between physiology and ADRD captured in blood- and saliva-based biomarkers as individuals transition from midlife to older ages
  4. Prepare for distribution the resulting database and associated documentation and metadata to facilitate scholarship on the factors that affect cognitive functioning and cognitive impairment.

“Jumping through A New Set of Hoops Each Time” – Conceptualization and Assessment of Socioeconomic Disparities in Caregivers’ Access to Resources

PI: Kristen Litzelman
Investigators: Hyojin Choi (UW School of Human Ecology) and Maija Reblin (Moffitt Cancer Center)

In order to advance research and intervention efforts focused on resource use among caregivers, this project will conceptualize the process of accessing resources and assess socioeconomic disparities in resource use. The researchers will draw on previous theoretical and conceptual models to frame this work. The project’s overarching hypothesis is that service use is driven not only by need, but by caregivers’ existing resources of time, money, and emotional energy, compounded by sequential challenges in the systems navigation process. Conceptualizing this process and assessing how socioeconomic factors are linked to service utilization is a critical first step to understanding disparities in resource allocation and identifying targets for intervention

The Impact of Early Life Exposure to Extreme Weather and Temperature Shocks on Late Life Cardiovascular and Cognitive Health: Evidence from the Longitudinal Aging Study in India (LAS)

PIs: Lauren Schmitz and Valentina Duque (University of Sydney)

This project will contribute to our understanding of how early life conditions affect aging patterns in developing countries. Specifically, since agriculture remains the main source of income for a large fraction of households in these contexts, we will focus on two shocks that largely affect their economic, health, and psychological wellbeing: 1) the occurrence of adverse weather and temperature shocks, and 2) policies aimed at reducing food insecurity, poverty, and promoting economic growth. Understanding life course impacts of extreme weather patterns on aging outcomes is particularly imperative in the modern climate era; the number of record high temperatures and intense rainfall events has been increasing globally and these trends are expected to continue to rise over the next few decades.

2020-2021 Pilot Projects

Investigating the Interactions between Inflammatory Biomarkers and Gut Microbiome in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study

PI: ZhengZheng Tang

Persistent inflammation has emerged as a consistent marker of aging and aging-related diseases. This pilot project seeks to investigate the connection between these inflamed biomarkers and changes in the gut microbiome among older adults, using the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, a rich longitudinal data source that has tracked individuals from the 1957 high school class throughout Wisconsin.

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Physiological, Affective, and Cardiovascular Reactivity to Family Caregiving Stress

PI: Jooyoung Kong

Longer life spans have helped advent the “sandwich generation” – middle-aged adults who find themselves caring for their children and their own aging parents. This position, stressful for anyone, may be especially stressful for adults who had Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) while growing up. Primarily using the data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, this project will explore how caregiving adults with ACES in their histories respond and react to daily stressors.

Understanding Socio-economic Influences on Health and Longevity

PI: Philipp Koellinger

Scientists have already discovered that low socio-economic status (SES) is linked to an array of physical and mental health conditions and reduced longevity, but the mechanisms behind these correlations have proven elusive thus far. If they could be discovered, scientists may be able to predict and prevent some of the poor outcomes associated with low SES. This project will utilize the over 500,000 genomic samples within the UK Biobank to complete analyses.

Improving Biomarkers of Metabolic Disease in African American Populations

PI: Judith Simcox

Studies have shown that the most widely used clinical markers for diabetes — HDL, LDL, and triglycerides — are not accurate predictors of the disease in African-Americans. This pilot project will examine the promise of two potential alternatives in African-American females: C reactive protein and arachidonic acid containing lipids. African Americans are 60% more likely than Caucasians to have diabetes and twice as likely to die from diabetes-related complications. With better diagnostic tools, healthcare professionals have a better chance of bringing about positive health care outcomes.

Deploying Machine Learning Tools to Predict Mortality Outcomes in the General Population

PI: Jason Fletcher
GRA: Ang Yu

Utilizing machine learning to predict mortality outcomes at the population level has thus far proven a tough nut to crack: the existing small samples sizes too small, the large samples lacking the proper type of data. This project aims to find the middle ground between these extremes by linking large population-based data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study and the American Community Survey (ACS) to data from the National Death Index (NDI) and Medicare claims. Utilizing these linkages, the researchers will look for interactions that lead to mortality, and create risk scores based off of these interactions.