Research Shortchanges Elder Care

The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/health/policy/29geriside.html?_r=1&ref=health) recently reported that, despite our aging society, relatively few NIH funds go toward research aimed at this segment of the population.

Research on “direct health care concerns of the elderly” only represents 11% of the budget, and funding increases and study approvals lag the rates of other studies.

While this trend is certainly shortsighted, there are a few other factors–pro and con–to take into consideration. On the mitigating side, many of the general research studies, like diabetes and heart disease, look into diseases that are also primary concerns of older people. Also, it must be recognized that many new drugs are difficult to test on older people, and the study criteria often exclude older and more frail patients.

Which leads to the other hidden factor: Most research on aging is drug-related. There is inadequate funding of other approaches to care, including expanding social support systems, culture change in long-term care, and innovations in coordination and promotion of wellness.

We have become a nation of the “quick-fix”, and it is difficult to fund studies that don’t reach for the pill bottle, or promise a cure.

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