This proposal seeks to form a network of scientists and institutions at the forefront of research on the social determinants of US population health and health disparities that can develop needed human and technical infrastructure to understand trends and disparities in population health. Three of the most salient recent trends are the decline in the rate of increase in life expectancy among American women, an increase in socioeconomic differences in health and mortality in the US, especially by education, and a recent decrease in black-white differences in life expectancy. Our aim is to better understand the causes of these trends and their implications for the future. That is, what are the major social, economic and behavioral sources of change in levels of, and social disparities in, health? How likely are these trends and disparities to characterize future cohorts? And what factors can contribute most to improving the health of disadvantaged groups, thus bringing America?s levels of population health and spending on health closer to comparably wealthy nations? These critical questions will guide our network?s meetings, working groups, and research efforts.
The proposed network brings together a multidisciplinary group of scholars who work across data sets, methodological approaches, and theoretical traditions. The network will focus attention on development of the most pressing research questions, as well as on sharing and using the most promising data and methods to yield analytical results of the greatest importance to science and policy. For example, many population health risks and outcomes change in cohort fashion, while most individual level data sets are organized in either a period or individual life course format. Our group will develop infrastructure to enhance the data and methods necessary to understand US population health and health disparities in a cohort manner as well as in the more typical period and individual life course formats. Via three specific aims the network and its infrastructure will enhance the productivity of individual researchers, create a multidisciplinary team to develop new interdisciplinary approaches and findings, and, by including established and early career scholars, contribute to developing the next generation of scientists of population health and health disparities. There will be three sites leading the network: University of Michigan, University of Southern California and University of Texas at Austin.