Challenges of Longevity Debated at Public Lecture
Health systems of the future extend well beyond medical care, says the Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in the United States, Professor Linda Fried.
A leader in the fields of epidemiology and geriatrics, Fried was speaking at a public lecture co-hosted by UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) and the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA).
According to Fried - who has dedicated her career to the science of healthy aging and creating the basis for a transition to a world where greater longevity benefits people of all ages - behavioural factors accounted for 50 percent of premature mortality, environmental and genetic factors claimed 20 percent, while 10 percent was due to inadequate access to medical care.
Fried highlighted the global need to invest in conditions that make health, and healthy choices, the default option for all societies. ‘The challenge is that we are living in a world where the obesity epidemic, for example, indicates that our lives are changing in a way that our physiology is not ready for.’
Fried said chronic diseases were communicable and calling them non-communicable was an anachronism. Collective efforts towards maximising global health meant that large transformations were needed in thinking, science and action.
She said the world’s health goal for a society of longer lives was compressing morbidity, and in order to achieve this, building new types of health systems that optimise health and lower cost was essential.
‘The key to investing in the opportunities of longer lives is pushing back the onset of disease and disability to the latest points in the human lifespan,’ Fried said.
In addition to public health systems, clinical care and home-based care, Fried said components of a futuristic system that creates health for the whole population would have to include: social institutions for community engagement; health-supportive built environments; physical environments with safe and healthy air, food, water and communities; social protections, policy and workplace.
Fried reflected on the successes of the International Centre for AIDS Care and Treatment Programmes at Columbia University and lauded CAPRISA for its on-going and ground-breaking research in South Africa.