A newly released book by first-time author, Breanna Deutsch, proclaims that the world’s largest and most pressing healthcare issue is none other than what the majority of people consider an unwavering part of life: aging. Deutsch asserts that the leading cause of the world’s most critical health conditions—chronic diseases that lead to organ failure, heart problems, immune issues, and a general decline in quality of life, all boil down to the body’s aging process.
In Finding the Fountain: Why Government Must Unlock Biotech’s Potential to Maximize Longevity, Deutsch demands that governments direct more resources to tackle the issue of aging, in particular by taking advantage of biotechnology. She also stresses that while aging may seem inevitable, much can be done to impede, reverse, and possibly even prevent it altogether. For example, IV Therapy promises to help boost immunity, but IV therapy costs are not low-cost. Consumers should also be aware that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor the supplements in IV therapy.
As a resource that adopts and encourages others to embrace a positive view of aging as a healthy, normal part of life, our goal is to also encourage and welcome honest dialogue with those we disagree with, such as Deutsch. This is because everyone is growing older, older people still exist, and the aging population, like other age groups, brings both challenges and opportunities.
Deutsch suggests that although global life expectancy has gone up in recent years—the United Nations estimates it at a record 72.6 years—the assortment of ailments that plague the elderly makes the uptick in years hardly worth it. She claims that while technologies exist to combat the cell death that leads to aging, these treatments often face roadblocks which prevent them from making it to hospitals or centers that are accessible to the everyday person.
While we agree with Deutsch that aging increases vulnerability to age-associated diseases, we disagree that the increase in life expectancy is hardly worth it. There are benefits with living longer, from increased productivity to boost the economy, to intergenerational connections that give the child and the older adult a sense of purpose. The fact people are living longer but not necessarily healthier does not imply that aging is at fault. Instead, it means we have and continue to put little focus on prevention.
Healthy aging does not begin when we are older adults. It starts in our younger years. How young? As soon as we arrive in this world! Putting a greater focus on tackling social determinants of health (SDOH) will reap faster dividends than current biotechnology therapies for aging and longevity, which are either expensive or not FDA-cleared or approved. We need more research and better resource allocation into SDOH because, for several years, SDOH has only been popular among public health practitioners and recently moved into the policy domain.
We also cannot forget that beyond focusing on genetics plays a critical role in how we age. For example, family studies demonstrated that about 25 percent of the variation in human longevity is due to genetic factors. However, promoting proven public health interventions can help mitigate chronic conditions that accompany aging.
As both scientists and science communicators, our team at GHA are careful about current language toward aging, which could lead to ageism. Because, at the moment, everyone is growing older, older people still exist, and the aging population, like other age groups, brings both challenges and opportunities.
Deutsch’s book offers a step toward the future by putting pressure on the government to aid its citizens in taking care of their overall health. While we take a different approach, we also believe in prioritizing the goal of prevention and allocating the necessary funds to reach it. Ultimately, the saying prevention is better than cure always rings true.
Edited by Global Health Aging.