Investigators: Mary McEniry
Funding: Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging 2012-2013
The overall goal of the proposed pilot project is to test the feasibility of building data linkages between a comprehensive and nationally representative survey of older Puerto Rican adults and US census data so that hypotheses regarding early life exposures (poor nutrition, infectious diseases, and poor socioeconomic conditions) and older adult health can be more rigorously examined. There have been few studies of the elderly which have accomplished this linkage. The project will link already collected survey data on older adults in Puerto Rico with US census data from 1920-1930 to obtain more complete data on postnatal and early adulthood family, household and community environments. Studying early life effects on older adult health remains an important topic. Aging populations exposed to poor nutrition and infectious diseases in early life are experiencing an increasing prevalence of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes—conditions which have been hypothesized to originate in early life under certain conditions. Recent survey data of older adults and historical data on conditions during the early 20th century tell a compelling story about older adult health in Puerto Rico. Obtaining additional information from historical US census records will permit a better understanding of the determinants of older adult health in Puerto Rico by complementing information regarding early life, young adulthood, and older adult health. The results will also be relevant to older adult health in low and middle income countries which are projected to experience a higher burden of disease due to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Data have already been collected for two waves of the Puerto Rican Elderly: Health Conditions (PREHCO) project (n=4291 targets, 1444 spouses, 2002-03 and 2006-7); mortality data from the National Death Index (NDI) already linked with PREHCO data; and historical data from reports on community-level health conditions obtained on infant mortality, other health conditions and public health interventions during the early 20th century. A randomly selected subset of at least 1500 respondents will be selected to build data linkages with the US census of 1920 and 1930. Previous results for Puerto Rico which showed strong associations between in utero/early infancy exposures and adult heart disease and diabetes for Puerto Rico will be re-examined incorporating the linked census data. The successful completion of the project will lead to an effort to create a larger and more complete longitudinal dataset based on PREHCO and historical US census data for 1920, 1930 and also 1940 which will be made publicly available to researchers. The successful linkages with PREHCO survey data will substantially expand the scope of potential research questions for those interested in the health of older Puerto Ricans, especially in terms of the relative importance of early life factors across the life course. A better understanding of early life conditions and their effects on older adult health has the possibility of leading to better interventions for older adults and better prevention strategies at younger ages.
Country of Focus: Puerto Rico
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