The World Health Organization (WHO) (an organization that operates as part of the United Nations), has announced plans to study important issues in health and aging. Under The Global Online Consultation on Research Priority Setting for Healthy Aging, the WHO will accumulate data to measure what issues and factors must be considered when formulating policy, as well as receive answers to important logistical and ethical questions about how best to develop and implement anti-aging techniques.

The WHO promotes health around the globe through programs that fight and prevent disease and educate people of all backgrounds in important issues in healthcare and wellness. Programs range from The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health to programs that raise awareness and fight diseases like HIV/AIDs and Malaria. Now, the WHO has set its sights on aging and the various health issues that accompany it.

As part of the initiative, the WHO has released an anonymous survey online, in which respondents can suggest specific areas for inquiry that are not already included in a list of topics that must be analyzed to form effective policies. Among others, the survey lists the following questions as topics that will already be considered (all are quoted directly from the survey, with edits for syntax):

  • “What are effective strategies to enable an older person to age in a place that is right for them (drawing on diverse mechanisms, such as supported decision making and social inclusion of older adults). What steps can high, middle, and low income countries and diverse resource settings take to implement these?”
  • “What technologies can be developed to help older adults compensate for losses of capacity?”
  • “What are essential and cost-effective services for older adults spanning promotion, prevention, early detection, treatment, long-term support, rehabilitation, and palliative care (e.g. mix of population and clinical services)? Do these differ in light of peoples’ characteristics (e.g. gender, sex, chronologic age, biologic age)?”
  • “How can health systems finance care for older persons in a sustainable and fair way?”
  • “What social care approaches have the greatest benefit for care recipients?”
  • “What system models for long term care might be relevant for lower or middle-income countries, and what are their strengths or weaknesses?”
  • “Which interventions improve trajectories of Healthy Ageing, and in which contexts and population subgroups do they work? Specifically, what is the appropriate timing and sequencing of these interventions over the life course and for different levels of capacity? Are there critical points across the life course, or within specific contexts or levels (e.g. home, institution, community, country)?”
  • “What genetic, biologic or cellular advances, or assistive technologies should be [prioritized] and made accessible to the widest range of people?”
  • “What are the net economic and other contributions of older people to society, and how are these valued, quantified and communicated?”
  • “What interventions can help overcome ageist (discrimination based on age) attitudes?”

The survey also requests suggestions for supplemental criteria for evaluating the quality of future research studies in aging and health. The current criteria assess studies based on answerability (“Likelihood that the research question would be answerable and generate new knowledge within the time frame (2017-2030)”), Feasibility (Is the research potentially doable in a wide range of setting?”), Applicability (“Likelihood that the knowledge generated through the proposed research question would be implemented and have an impact on policy and practice”), “Impact on Intrinsic Capacity or Functional Ability)” (“Likelihood that the proposed research results would improve or maintain intrinsic capacity and/or functional ability”) and whether or not the study “Improv[es] Equity” (“Likelihood that the proposed research would lead to action that reduces unfair inequalities in Healthy Ageing).

Anyone interested in contributing their opinions and in shaping future conversations and policies in health and aging is able to complete the survey. The survey will remain open until September 30th. For more information, the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) has provided background information on the WHO, the survey, and important issues in aging and health, accessible here.