Health Forecasting at UCLA

May 2012

In This Edition:


RWJF publishes Health Forecasting program results report


Forecasting health in your community: Our updated Define a Population feature


Are residents of lower-income neighborhoods physically inactive?


Air quality and health three-part-series: Boyle Heights


Publications and presentations


Our projects


About us



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Health Forecasting Quarterly Newsletter •  May 2012

Health Forecasting was established at the UCLA School of Public Health a decade ago. We use the best available data and analysis to produce empirically sound and credible forecasts of health trends to support health advocates, researchers, elected and government officials in their efforts to anticipate, prepare, and plan for healthier communities.



RWJF Publishes Health Forecasting Program Results Report

The findings of Health Forecasting research, carried out with the assistance from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, are detailed in the report, “Looking into the future in three states with the UCLA Health Forecasting Tool”. The research, using the Health Forecasting Tool, includes multiple risk factors and various policy scenarios to forecast future health outcomes. The analysis focuses on the future impact of specific programs and policies on public health and health disparities in three states: California, Arkansas, and Wisconsin.


Forecasting Health in Your Community: Our Updated Define a Population Feature

The Health Forecasting Tool’s recent update to the Define a Population feature enables a user to create a personalized study population to examine health-related data and trends in their community.  

How does it work?
Users can create a new study population using data from a variety of frequently used data sources, including the U.S. Census or the American Community Survey. Demographic characteristics, such as ethnicity, age, or gender can be input as percentages or actual population counts. Only the user that created the new study population can view and access this information.


Define a Population Example: A non profit is in the process of drafting a grant proposal to combat heart disease among Latinos in East Los Angeles.


How can the ‘Define a Population’ feature support their efforts to reduce heart disease?

  • Identify the scope of heart disease in their neighborhoood
    •   In our baseline year, 2005, there were 1,400 cases of heart disease. Four years later, there were nearly 200 additional cases.
  • Determine what would happen if current heart disease trends continue
    • If heart disease continues its upward trend, relative to our baseline year (2005), the Health Forecasting Tool estimates:  
      • a 90% increase in heart disease cases in 20 years;
      • and within 30 years, in the year 2035, the cases of East L.A. residents afflicted with heart disease will increase substantially byabout 164%

The Health Forecasting Tool is a unique, innovative microsimulation computer model that accounts for demographic characteristics, health behaviors, and health status. The user defined population report provides intermediate and distal health outcomes for a subset of the population or the community as a whole.


Impact for public health: The ability to harness  evidence-based data to assess trends in health is  a powerful tool for decision makers and advocates in their efforts to anticipate, prepare, and plan for improving population health.

For more detailed information and instructions, visit our website: Define a Population.


Are Residents of Lower-Income Neighborhoods Physically Inactive?

Leading a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many other chronic conditions. Health Forecasting researchers sought to examine the association, if any, between neighborhood economic status and physical activity levels for adults in Los Angeles County.

The analysis, presented at the 2011 American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, focused on individual socioeconomic status and  neighborhood economic status as predictors for higher levels of physical activity. Researchers hypothesized that residents living in wealthier neighborhoods may not only have more infrastructure and amenities available to engage in physical activity, but exhibit different social perceptions toward physical activity. In order to test this hypothesis, researchers used ArcGIS and a multi-level statistical regression using data from the Los Angeles County Health Survey.  

Findings: The analysis revealed a moderately negative association between neighborhood economic status and physical inactivity. According to data, lower income neighborhoods were found to have higher rates of physical inactivity when compared to higher income communities.





Impact for public health: Focusing   interventions to combat a sedentary lifestyle in lower income neighborhoods may be an effective tool to reduce health disparities.


To view the poster presentation, please visit the Health Forecasting website: What’s New or a direct link to American Public Health Association website: Association of Neighborhood Economic Status with adults physical inactivity in Los Angeles County


Air Quality and Health Three-Part-Series: Boyle Heights

Poor air quality has been linked to numerous adverse health outcomes including respiratory disease and symptoms, lung and heart conditions, even early death. The resulting poor health also affects school attendance, academic and work performance, and a person’s quality of life. In this three-part-series, we will present our findings of the impact of air quality on health in three communities identified in The California Endowment’s 10 year-initiative, Building Healthier Communities. Using the Health Forecasting Tool, we forecast direct and indirect health outcomes over a 20-year time period for the communities of Boyle Heights, south Kern County, and central Long Beach.

Community Health and Air Quality Profile-Part 1: Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights, a small urban community in the heart of Los Angeles, is disproportionately affected by high levels of fine particulate matter or PM2.5 pollution when compared to other areas of the state. This type of pollution is comprised of toxic particles emitted from various sources and is 1/30th the size of a human hair. It is especially harmful because the small toxic particles become lodged deep in the respiratory system causing a wide array of negative health effects.

Boyle Heights residents are especially susceptible to the negative health effects of PM2.5 because of the pre-existing likelihood of poor health stemming from low-income, limited access to high quality health care and many environmental hazards, such as the freeways which surround this small community.

Using the UCLA Health Forecasting Tool and data from the California Air Resources Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Census, and other sources, we modeled PM2.5 air quality data for two scenarios in Boyle Heights:


Scenario 1:  What if levels of PM2.5 pollution remain the same?

Fine particulate matter pollution has been on the decline over the past decade, but levels remain higher than state and federal clean air standards. For this scenario, we expect PM2.5 levels to remain relatively stable at its current rate.


Scenario 2:  What if levels of PM2.5 pollution continue to decline by 33% and reach the accepted federal clean air standard?

Levels of fine particulate matter decreased by 33% in Boyle Heights between the years 2000 and 2009. Given the pollution control efforts of state and federal agencies, we model a continued decline of 33%, which would bring the level of PM2.5 to below the federal clean air standard by 2018.

The analyses revealed that a reduction in PM2.5, as projected in Scenario 2, would provide significant improvements on health and work-related outcomes over a 20-year time horizon in Boyle Heights. The resulting health gains translate into
reduced associated medical care expenditures, improved quality of life, and higher economic productivity for residents of Boyle Heights.

For detailed analysis of the effect of PM2.5 pollution on health in Boyle Heights, read our issue brief: Air Pollution and Community Health in Boyle Heights 


Data and graphs for this issue brief are available online: TCE-AQ: Boyle Heights (2012)


Publications and Presentations

“Long-term effects of health factor modification in Milwaukee County”


    Authors: Lu Shi, Jeroen van Meijgaard, and Jonathan Fielding    
    Publication: Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Forthcoming

“Estimating benefits of past, current and future reductions in smoking rates using a comprehensive model with competing causes of death”
    Authors: Jeroen van Meijgaard and Jonathan Fielding
    Publication: Preventing Chronic Disease, Forthcoming

“The association between acculturation and recreational computer use among Latino adolescents in California”
    Authors: Lu Shi, Jeroen van Meijgaard, and Paul Simon
    Publication: Pediatric Obesity, Forthcoming



Our Projects


The California Endowment

Expanding the capabilities of the UCLA Health Forecasting Tool by incorporating education and income, two critical social determinants of health, and focusing on interventions relevant to underserved individuals and communities in California.




National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Examining drivers of health and longevity among Latinos in California and understanding the effects of interventions focusing on diabetes and cardiovascular disease for this population. 










National Institutes of Health


Forecasting and improving Latino health by examining the role of acculturation and physical activity to account for health disparities among the Latino population.  






Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Incorporating additional risk factors (i.e. smoking) and disease outcomes (i.e. lung cancer) into the forecasting model and applying the model to other states, beginning with Arkansas and Wisconsin.




UniHealth Foundation

Supporting local not-for-profit hospitals in assessing current and future characteristics of the populations they serve and identifying long-term planning needs of local communities.  Providing information on future health and health disparities among subpopulations in the absence of additional effective health promotion and disease prevention efforts.






About Us

Health Forecasting is based at the UCLA School of Public Health, and is a collaborative effort with the California Department of Public Health and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.


  Evidence-based model to support advocacy of public health, research, and programs