Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  13 / 42 Next Page
Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 13 / 42 Next Page
Page Background

Developments in Public Health

Geroscience – a topic of interest for Public Health?

Geroscience claims to work for ‘healthy aging’. This aim by itself is an important issue for

public health in the future. What are the beneficial aspects of geroscience in terms of

public health and are there some aspects to worry about?

Geroscience, formerly called biogerontology, is a scientific field with the main

emphasis on working towards ‘healthy aging’. As common knowledge tells us, to increase our

chance to live to a healthy old age we should not eat too many calories, not drink alcohol or at

least not in excess, not smoke and be physical active. Experts and

organizations dealing with public health are more than eager to

convince all of us to follow the rules for a long, healthy life and to

refrain from bad, unhealthy behavior. So far, this endeavour has

gained some remarkable achievements. Life expectancy at birth

exceeds 80 years in a number of high income countries and,

globally, children born in 2015 have an average life expectancy of

over 70 years

1 .

Dramatic extensions in life expectancy started to

arise spectacularly around 1900 and have occurred so far over only about four generations out

of an estimated 8,000 generations of humans roaming around the world

(1)

. A number of

environmental factors have accounted for this development, including better nutrition, a

decrease in infectious diseases, and improvements in mother and child health care, sanitation,

housing and education

(2-4)

. More recently it is argued that improvements in medical

knowledge and practice have had more of a beneficial impact than nutrition

(5)

. It is probable

that a combination of environmental and technical improvements contributed to the decrease

in mortality and longer life expectancy, and public health measures have certainly played a

major role. If public health has already provided sufficient proof of its concern with ‘healthy

aging’, why should a population-orientated discipline be bothered with a subject which is

interested in prolonging life using study models from rodents to the fruit fly and even soil

round worms with unpronounceable names such as ‘

Caenorhabditis elegans

’. Undoubtedly,

geroscience research is successful in, for instance, fiddling with genetic configuration so that

lab mice GHR-KO 11C have lived up to and died one week before their fifth birthday, an age

which equals about 180 years in a human.

Up to now this result and others seem to be of no practical relevance for public health.

Researchers in geroscience are of course aware of this, and they justify their work by saying

that “pushing the limits of life span in animals could someday help lengthen our own”

(6)

.

Age is the main risk factor for the majority of non-communicable diseases of interest for

public health

Geroscience covers much more than just basic research experiments. It was argued

recently that age is the main risk factor for the majority of non-communicable diseases of

1 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/health-inequalities-persist/en/ a

ccessed May 30,

2016)