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One option for patient advocacy for the treatment of aging as a medical condition is to petition governments and large international organizations such as the World Health Organization to adjust their positions on research funding and goals in medicine. This a fairly popular path, for all that I think it not terribly effective at speeding up the cutting edge of research and development. Large organizations of any sort are inherently conservative, and tend to get meaningfully involved in new fields of human endeavor only long after their support would have been truly influential.
Nonetheless, numerous examples of government focused initiatives have emerged from our community over the past decade. They include the Longevity Dividend initiative, petitioning the US government for greater public funding for translational aging research; the small single issue political parties focused on longevity in Germany, Russia, and elsewhere; efforts to influence the contents of the International Classification of Diseases produced by the World Health Organization, in order to classify aging as a disease; and so forth. In recent years, an informal collaboration between advocates, investors, and others in the UK has been making inroads into influencing thinking on aging and longevity in government circles in that country. One of their successes is noted here.
Success, yes, and somewhat more than has been achieved elsewhere. Nonetheless, progress in these efforts in any part of the world tends to be painfully slow and incremental. Persuading bureaucrats to think about making a formal goal of the addition of just a few years to life expectancy over the next few decades is considered a victory. But this is far too little. We live now in an era of biotechnology in which much larger gains in life expectancy are possible and plausible given sufficient investment in research and development. The implementation of rejuvenation therapies, of which senolytic treatments to clear senescent cells are only the first, will up-end all these minor expectations of a few years here and a few years there. That should be the goal.
This week the UK Government published the green paper of its Preventive Medicine National Strategy, entitled “Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s – consultation document“. In practice, this indicates that the UK will be the first country to officially implement P4 (Personalized, Preventive, Precision and Participatory) medicine into its national healthcare system.
This is the newest development in a series of large steps that the UK government has made in recent years towards the development of a proactive, progressive and technology-driven national Healthy Longevity development strategy, beginning with the formation of the Ageing Industrial Grand Challenge (prioritizing the problem of ageing population as one of four key national industrial development challenges for the nation) in 2017, followed by the launch of the £98 million Government-led Healthy Ageing Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund in 2018, and the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity in 2019.
These are some of the major factors that led to the UK being ranked first in Aging Analytics Agency’s National Longevity Development Plans analytical report, which used quantitative metrics to rank the strength, proactivity and relevance of various nations’ Longevity development projects and initiatives.
Thanks to developments in public health and healthcare, we’ve made great progress in helping people to live longer lives. For example, life expectancy has increased by almost 30 years over the past century. Cancer survival rates are up and mortality rates from heart disease and stroke are down. However, these improvements in life expectancy are beginning to slow, and over 20% of years lived are expected to be spent in poor health.
Last year, the government set a mission as part of the Ageing Society Grand Challenge to “ensure that people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest”. The green paper proposals will not deliver the whole ‘5 years’. But they will help us towards achieving this mission. Further details on this will be provided later in the year, through a government response to the green paper.