For the next 11 years, each and every day, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 years old within the United States. Cohen says. “But there’s one kind of twist to this. We actually found in the most rural areas that’s where the healthiest people are.” He hypothesizes this disparity could be caused by a sort of “reverse causation” where if people are able to live in extremely rural areas they are inherently healthier. Cohen is currently working to combine these two research interests into a bigger project – examining rural urban health disparities in caregivers to older adults and is applying for federal grants that would give him access to new data on caregivers’ geography. This summer, Cohen was awarded a $13,000 grant from the URI Council for Research to look at similar place-based characteristics in Rhode Island that affect life expectancy. “Rhode Island has an older population relative to most other states. But we also have some of the highest quality health care services and opportunities for health promotion in the country. The issue is that within Rhode Island itself, like many other states and regions across the U.S., there are wide disparities in health outcomes. That shouldn’t happen in a state like Rhode Island,” he says. By looking at Rhode Island Department of Health data, he can figure out where people are most likely to die prematurely and what social characteristics could predict life expectancy. He hopes to use this first grant as a pilot study to generate even deeper information on Rhode Island life expectancy. “I’m really interested in practical, applied research so I really want to see if there is something systematic that we could be doing – whether it is reducing income inequality, or providing certain services – whatever it is that cities and towns may be doing, I’m hoping to influence that policy through this research,” he adds. For Cohen, URI seems to be a perfect place to conduct his research. “I found my home here,” Cohen says. “What’s been really nice is finding people at URI to collaborate with. When I came here I knew that URI is a great school, but what I was really thrilled with is there are so many people here who are fantastic researchers who are genuinely interested in moving the needle in terms of improving population health and helping people live long and healthy lives.”

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