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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Office of Minority Health

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Grantee Information

Organization: New Jersey Department of Health (DOH), Office of Minority and Multicultural Health (OMMH)

Organization Address: P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ, 08625

Phone Number: 609-292-6962

Fax Number: 609-292-8713

Organization website URL (if any):

Brief Description of the Organization: The New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) Office of Minority and Multicultural Health is committed to helping people in New Jersey’s diverse communities live longer, healthier lives and to leading the effort to reduce, and eventually eliminate, health disparities in New Jersey. The OMMH vision – Health Equity for All – is aligned with the launch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Partnership for Action Plan to Reduce Disparities and the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity.

Grant Project Information

Title of Grant Project: Improving Mental Health and Physical Activity in Older African Americans in Newark: A State-University-Church Partnership

Amount of OMH Award: $200,000

Name of Project Director: Carolyn Daniels

Phone Number of Project Director: 609-292-6962

E-mail Address of Project Director:


Minority and economically disadvantaged seniors are at greater risk for poor emotional and cognitive mental health due to environmental, lifestyle and behavioral factors, including low levels of physical activity and insufficient aerobic exercise. This crisis is especially severe among African Americans living in low-income urban areas such as Newark and surrounding neighborhoods. The New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) Office of Minority and Multicultural Health (OMMH) joins with Rutgers University – Newark (part of the State University of New Jersey) and their African-American Brain Health Initiative (AABHI): A University-Community Partnership, to implement and evaluate interventions for older African Americans living in lower-income urban neighborhoods of Greater Newark to reduce health disparities in mental health and physical activity.

OMMH will carry out two main interventions: 1) development of Health Disparities Profiles, and 2) a community intervention related to physical and mental health. The grantee will conduct an initial Health Disparities Profile of 1,000 older African American residents of Greater Newark to assess (a) major indicators of mental health status (both emotional and cognitive), (b) mental and brain health awareness and knowledge, and (c) physical activity. This will be conducted through partnerships with community-based organizations (CBOs) and church/faith-based organizations (FBOs). While most participants will have these health indicators assessed through self-report only, a subset of 100 will be selected for in-depth objective assessments including both: (a) investigator or clinician-administered emotional and cognitive instruments, and (b) a week-long 24/7 mobile monitoring of physical activity and movement using wrist-band accelerometers and pedometers.

The community interventions involve partnering with black churches in lower-income neighborhoods of Greater Newark to implement a two-tiered intervention integrated with local health and aging ministries, and includes:

  1. Community education and awareness programs to promote knowledge, attitude, and practice changes regarding mental health and physical activity, including large university-based community-educational events, smaller church-based events, and broader distribution of culturally-sensitive print materials on mental health and physical activity specifically written for lower-income African Americans.
  2. Church-based exercise programs for older adults build on prior evidence-based studies indicating that physical activity that includes aerobic exercise, balance training, and sensory-motor skills learning can provide immediate improvement in both emotional and cognitive health in older adults, as well as reduce future risk for Alzheimer’s disease and Major Depressive Disorder. African American adults between 55 and 90, who are overweight and lead a largely sedentary life, will also be invited to participate in a 20-week aerobic dance exercise intervention program. They will also recruit and train retired black nurses within each church as "Brain Health Ambassadors" to help further integrate the university-driven programming with the church infrastructure and community leaders within the church.

OMMH predicts significant improvements in cognition, especially reasoning, learning, and memory, which are known to decline with age and especially with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. By the end of the five-year program, OMMH expects to enroll 840 participants in the exercise interventions. OMMH also expects to see, measure, validate, and publish results showing improvements in cognition, especially reasoning, learning, and memory. The 20-week exercise program is also expected to lead to improvements in emotional aspects of mental health including mood (fewer depressive symptoms).

An outcome evaluation will be conducted using the HHS OMH Strategic Framework. Impacts and outcomes will be measured via surveys of Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) regarding mental and physical health; comparison of pre/post-event KAP surveys held at faith and community-based organizations’ educational and outreach events; and, degree of change in cognition, lifestyle (diet and fitness), and mood after exercise interventions held at faith-based organizations. Methods for collecting and analyzing data on measures include the comparison of KAP data over time (i.e., comparing results from the initial Health Disparities Profile to the results); the comparison of KAP data by event-type (compared to initial Health Disparities profiles, to assess effectiveness of specific event-types); tracking of attendance at both community outreach events and exercise events, to assess feasibility of such programs; and, comparisons of cognitive, emotional, and physical health scores before and after exercise interventions, to assess intervention effectiveness.


Awareness : Increase awareness of the significance of health disparities, their impact on the nation, and the actions necessary to improve health outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.

Leadership: Strengthen and broaden leadership for addressing health disparities at all levels.

Health System and Life Experience : Improve health and healthcare outcomes for racial, ethnic, and underserved populations.

Cultural and Linguistic Competency : Improve cultural and linguistic competency and the diversity of the health-related workforce.

Data Research and Evaluation: Improve data availability and coordination, utilization, and diffusion of research and evaluation outcomes.


  • NF-1: Prevent an increase in the proportion of the population that is obese
  • NF-2: Increase the proportion of the population consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • NF-3: Increase aerobic physical activity
1/12/2016 2:00:00 PM