Campus & Community

HSPH to get $1.8 million in NIA funding

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Research will focus on aging and health issues

A new program on the global demography of aging led by David Bloom, chair of the Department of Population and International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), has received funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to carry out research on important themes related to global aging and health, with an emphasis on issues in the developing world.

Federal funding will total more than $1.8 million over four years. The University-wide effort will also receive support from the Office of the Provost at Harvard University, HSPH, and the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. The program will be based at the Harvard Initiative for Global Health, in Cambridge, Mass.

Research will focus on three main themes: measurement of the global pattern of disease, mortality, and morbidity in aging populations; determinants of population health and aging; and demographic and economic consequences of global aging.

One major challenge to healthy aging is the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and approximately one-third of the funding has been earmarked for research in this area.

The program will provide infrastructure and support for research at Harvard on the global demography of aging through workshops, seminars, an annual conference, working papers, funding for pilot projects, and collaboration with international research centers, in particular with the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies in South Africa.

Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography at HSPH, will direct the program. David Canning, professor of economics and international health at HSPH, will serve as deputy director. Both are part of an executive committee that includes Harvard professors Christopher Murray, Gary King, Nicholas Christakis, and Lisa Berkman.

“Rising life expectancy and falling fertility rates mean that the world’s population is aging,” said Canning. “This is true not only in developed countries but also in most of the developing world. Understanding the process of population aging is an essential part of facing up to the problems that will confront us in the coming century, and will have implications for the global burden of disease, the financing of Social Security and health-care systems, and the reduction of poverty. The global nature of the world economy, with links through migration, trade, and investment flows, means that the effects of aging and demographic change are linked across countries and have to be considered at the global as well as the national level.”

The program joins three others newly funded by the NIA as Centers on the Demography of Aging, in addition to nine ongoing centers at institutions around the United States.