N.J. Population Health Data Project Funds 4 Pilots

March 16, 2023
New Jersey Integrated Population Health Data (iPHD) project establishes a process for integrating health and other data from publicly supported programs for population health research

The New Jersey Integrated Population Health Data (iPHD) project has approved pilot funding and the release of data for its first four research proposals. The project builds on the working relationship between Rutgers University and state agencies to further population health research by linking administrative data.

Each project addresses at least one of the iPHD’s four research priorities, which represent some of the state’s top health issues: addressing the opioid epidemic, improving maternal and infant health, addressing the social determinants of health and supporting the response to COVID-19 and other public health emergencies. The iPHD pilot awards are funded by the state Department of Health.

Enacted through legislation in 2016, the iPHD project is operated by the Center for State Health Policy (CSHP) at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. It seeks to inform policy making and strengthen population health in New Jersey. The iPHD establishes a process for integrating health and other data from publicly supported programs for population health research, allowing researchers to study issues of great importance to communities around the state. 

This cycle’s awardees will receive data to support the following research projects:

• Slawa Rokicki and Mark McGovern from the Rutgers School of Public Health will research perinatal depression, a prevalent and costly public health problem. “We applied for data access through the iPHD because of the unique opportunity that the iPHD initiative provides, linking the universe of birth records in New Jersey with hospital discharge records,” Rokicki said. She added that linking these data together will shed light on who is at risk of making postpartum emergency department visits for mental health reasons and can inform efforts to direct access to cost-effective interventions for those in need.

• Stephen Crystal from the Center for Health Services Research at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research will explore community level trends relating to COVID-19 and opioid use disorder (OUD). “The linkage of different sets of data provides an unprecedented opportunity to paint a full picture of the issues facing communities in New Jersey, and how those communities are addressing them,” Crystal said in a statement.

• Cheryl A. S. McFarland from the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium will study the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on birth outcomes. “Many important questions regarding the population impact of COVID on pregnant people and their babies can only be answered by linking multiple population-level data sources, and the iPHD program gives researchers this unique opportunity,” McFarland said in a statement.

• Morgan Peltier from the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine will study how interventions to improve access to psychiatric care for children might reduce mental health-related hospitalizations in New Jersey communities. “The iPHD will be instrumental for our research because it will allow us to quantify the impact and cost of undiagnosed mental illness in our community and the factors that may be affecting it,” Peltier said in a statement.

The iPHD project will be accepting applications for new projects beginning in March.

“The approval of these research projects is an important milestone for the iPHD,” said Joel Cantor, distinguished professor, director of the CSHP and ex-officio member of the iPHD Governing Board, in a statement. “Getting data out the door and into the hands of researchers represents the next step toward fulfilling our mission of facilitating research that has a high likelihood of leading to better health and well-being of New Jersey residents.”

The state Department of Health worked closely with Rutgers to support the design and implementation of the iPHD. “Population health requires an interdisciplinary, data-driven approach and collaboration to improve health outcomes,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli in a statement. “In compiling and linking these data sets for researchers, we hope that the insights they gain will inform efforts by government, healthcare providers, and communities to improve health for all New Jerseyans.”

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