Thursday, February 4, 2010

NIA Funds Roybal Centers for Translational Research in Aging

Centers Study Mobility, Independence, Decision Making, Cognition.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced that it has renewed funding for nine Edward R. Roybal Centers for Research on Applied Gerontology and designated four new centers. The goal of the centers is to move promising social and behavioral research findings out of the laboratory and into programs and practices that will improve the lives of older people and help society adapt to an aging population. The centers focus on a range of projects, including maintaining mobility and physical function, enhancing driving performance, understanding financial and medical decision making, and sharpening cognitive function.

The total amount of support is more than $23.4 million over the next five years. The majority of the funding is provided by the NIA. One of the new centers was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Additional funding is supplied by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Social Security Administration and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education.

The Roybal Centers were authorized by Congress in 1993 and named for former House Select Committee on Aging Chair Edward R. Roybal. "The Roybal Centers have pursued a wide range of research that has yielded real-world results," said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.). "This renewal and expansion of the centers carries on my father’s commitment to enhancing the lives of older Americans through research."

"The Roybal Centers provide a research infrastructure to help accelerate the development of new products and technologies with the potential to develop innovative and practical solutions for a number of pressing problems affecting the health and quality of life of older Americans," said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "This is increasingly important, given the rapid growth in the numbers of older people in the United States and around the world."

Although each focuses on a particular aspect of aging, all of the centers concentrate on the translation of research into practical applications that can be moved quickly into practice.

"One of the most exciting aspects of the Roybal Centers is their ability to take an idea all the way from the initial concept to a potential intervention," said Richard Suzman, Ph.D., director of NIA’s Division of Behavioral and Social Research. "By starting with the issues and challenges that people face in their lives these researchers are able to develop solutions that can readily be put into practice; in turn, the results sometimes lead to new basic research."

The four new centers, their principal investigators and research focus are:

  • Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging, Harvard University. Nicholas Christakis, M.D., Ph.D. This center focuses on the social network underpinnings of selected health problems affecting older people in the United States today, such as obesity and cancer.
  • Behavior Change in Health and Saving, National Bureau of Economic Research. David Laibson, Ph.D. The center extends research on successful financial decision making to choices about health behavior and the development of new interventions that improve health outcomes and financial well-being while reducing costs.
  • Northwest Roybal Center, (supported with Recovery Act funds), University of Washington. Linda Teri, Ph.D. This center seeks to improve the health and well-being of older adults with cognitive impairment and their caregivers.
  • PENN CMU Roybal Center on Behavioral Economics and Health, University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University. Kevin Volpp, M.D., Ph.D. The center conducts studies that foster the translation of approaches from behavioral economics to the improvement of health care behaviors and health care delivery for older adults.

The nine Roybal Centers renewed for funding, their principal investigators and research focus are:

  • Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging and Mobility, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Karlene K. Ball, Ph.D. This center focuses on developing interventions to enhance mobility in older people. The center is conducting a long-term study of driving competence which has led to refinements in motor vehicle departments’ assessments of older drivers in several states.
  • Center for Translational Research on Chronic Disease Self-Management, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. Christopher M. Callahan, M.D. This center seeks to improve self-management among vulnerable older adults cared for by generalist physicians.
  • Roybal Center on Advancing Decision Making in Aging, Stanford University School of Medicine. Alan M. Garber, M.D., Ph.D. The center explores how older Americans make decisions about their health with the goal of developing and implementing practical methods to help them make informed, effective decisions.
  • Roybal Center for Health Policy Simulation, University of Southern California-RAND Corporation. Dana P. Goldman, Ph.D. The goal of this center is to develop better models to understand the consequences of biomedical developments and social forces for health, health spending and health care delivery.
  • Midwest Roybal Center for Health Promotion and Translation, University of Illinois at Chicago. Susan L. Hughes, D.S.W. This center tests, builds and disseminates health promotion programs such as Fit and Strong!, that may help older adults prevent disability and maintain their independence in the community.
  • Princeton Center for Research on Experience and Well-being, Princeton University. Alan Krueger, Ph.D., and Angus Deaton, Ph.D. This center is developing new methods to measure well-being to understand and document the experience of aging in the United States and in other countries. The measures are being used to analyze how different life circumstances and situations contribute to overall quality of life across the lifespan.
  • Roybal Center for Financial Decision Making, RAND Corporation. Arie Kapteyn, Ph.D. This center seeks to understand how people reach decisions about issues affecting their economic status in old age and inform how public policy can educate or help people align decisions with their long-term objectives.
  • Oregon Roybal Center for Translational Research on Aging, Oregon Health & Science University. Jeffrey A. Kaye, M.D. The center focuses on identifying technologies to help meet two critical challenges of aging: loss of mobility and decline in cognitive function. The center develops independent living technologies, supports aging-in-place research and pursues partnerships with industry and academia.
  • Cornell-Columbia Institute for Translational Research on Aging, Cornell University and Columbia University. M. Carrington Reid, M.D., Ph.D. The center conducts research on barriers to diffusion of successful pain management programs for older people, particularly self-management programs and strategies.

The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. For more information on research and aging, go to

Some of the activities described in this release are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the Recovery Act, visit To track all federal funds provided through the Recovery Act, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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