NEW BRUNSWICK — Rutgers wants to better understand the health of New Jersey's older minority adults, but their participation in studies is necessary in order to make that happen.

Getting these folks engaged in research is the target of a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, going to a new collaborative led by the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (IFH). The three-year grant will assist the New Jersey Minority Aging Collaborative, which brings together researchers and communities to help recruit and retain minority adults in studies related to cancer, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and other health-related issues.

"New Jersey ranks among the top states in the country for overall health, but it is also among the worst in health equity," said IFH Director XinQi Dong, lead researcher. "For the state's 1.3 million older adults, there are equally large disparities, especially among those who are black, Hispanic or Asian, who too often are not being sustainably engaged in research."

Beyond entities within the Rutgers family, community partner organizations include the Center for Asian Health at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan University, the Trenton Health Team and New Brunswick Tomorrow. These partners, ideally, will help bridge the gap between researchers and older residents, and identify any barriers and community needs, improving health equity for the population.

"Here in the state of New Jersey, I think we still need to understand the effects of aging on our communities," said Jaymie Santiago, president of New Brunswick Tomorrow, a nonprofit devoted to improving quality of life for city residents.

"Research becomes a vehicle for helping," Santiago said.

The collaborative is currently focused on Newark, New Brunswick and Trenton, but it plans to expand into other areas of the Garden State.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.