Unafraid of Aging

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/science/reframing-views-of-aging.html

By KAREN PENNAR
Published: June 25, 2012

The signal public health achievement of the 20th century was the increase of the average human life span. Now, as that achievement helps raise the proportion of the aged around the world, what once seemed an unalloyed blessing is too often regarded as a burden — a financial burden, a health care burden, even a social burden.

“It’s nuts,” said Dr. Linda P. Fried, an epidemiologist and geriatrician who is dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. “To assume defeat from what every one of us as individuals wants suggests we’re not asking the right questions.”

Findings from the science of aging, Dr. Fried said, should “reframe our understanding of the benefits and costs of aging.”

From her perch at Mailman, a position she has held for four years, Dr. Fried is pushing students, professors and a wider audience to ask the right questions and ponder the right policies for coping with an aging world population.

Dr. Fried’s mandate is to lead a school that will give a new generation the tools to deal with global challenges to public health, including environmental degradation, climbing health care costs and the pressure of rapid urbanization. But she believes that research on aging and health changes “across the life course” are central to designing solutions to public health problems in the 21st century.

The Mailman School is newly energized, with enrollment in the master’s and doctoral programs up 26 percent over the last four years, and grants from the National Institutes of Health up 12 percent in 2011 — a year in which the overall N.I.H. budget declined slightly. Mailman’s curriculum has undergone a major redesign to reflect a new emphasis on health preservation and prevention for every stage of life. Interdisciplinary study will be required of all students. The curriculum, Dr. Fried boasts, is “absolutely unique” among schools of public health, and has generated a great deal of interest. Applications for 2012 admission to the master’s program were up more than 20 percent from the year before.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/science/reframing-views-of-aging.html

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