When Emma Aguila was 14, she’d take school trips to poor parts of Mexico to help teach and entertain children. During one of these trips – from her home in Mexico City to Cotija, Michoacan – Aguila and her friends stumbled upon a small hut. Inside were an infant, a 2-year-old and 5-year-old, all on their own and covered in dirt. Their mother, Aguila learned, had to work in a distant community, leaving the 5-year-old in charge.
The scene left Aguila, now an associate professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, feeling speechless and powerless. She and her friends helped as best they could, cleaning the hut and feeding the kids, but Aguila knew the children would be in the same circumstance the next day.
Since that moment, “I have felt a strong commitment to help people in need and to make a difference through my research,” Aguila said.
Aguila, an expert in aging and health economics, is continuing that commitment with the launch of the Hispanic Well-Being Initiative. The initiative will conduct research focused on Hispanics and Latinos to understand the social determinants of their health. USC Price School researchers will deploy a “life course approach” – meaning they’ll analyze individuals’ entire life histories to gain insights – and will examine the lives of people in both the United States and their country of origin.