Global Aging and Health

Global Health and Aging focuses on studies of sociocultural, economic, and environmental circumstances impacting the well-being of older individuals around the world, and analyses of physical, mental and cognitive aging trajectories in diverse and understudied populations across a wide spectrum of socioeconomic development.

Global Health and Aging is a PARC theme that is gaining prominence in PARC’s portfolio, reflecting the fact that aging is increasingly a global challenge for which the implications are relatively well-documented and understood in high-income countries. However, aging is poorly documented and understood in LMICs where aging is often more rapid, societies and health systems are poorly prepared to address health and care needs of older persons, and where social, economic and health-trajectories are likely to unfold differently than in higher-income contexts as a result of life-course adversities, distinct family, transfers and/or migration patterns, and interactions of aging patterns with infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. As a result of prior PARC investments that have resulted in exceptional data resources and extensive research networks PARC is uniquely positioned to create a distinctive identity and to lead global aging research. PARC’s global focus receives strong support through Penn’s Global Initiatives and Perry World House.

PARC's portfolio of global aging and health research has expanded and is expected to do so in the future with strong interrelations to multiple PARC core themes (see Research Networks). Elo, Behrman, Karlawish and Bravo will analyze new Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) data collected in the Chile Social Protection Survey. Aiken, Behrman and Smith study the efficient use of nurses and other staffing in Chilean hospitals, and Behrman has been a key participant in the discussion on the implications of population aging in Latin America. H-P Kohler, I Kohler, and Behrman, along with other members of the MLSFH team, are expanding their aging research using the longitudinal aging-data collected as part of the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (MLSFH), including a multi-country collaboration on Inclusive Social Protection for Chronic Health Problems, and aim to establish the MLSFH as a leading resource for integrated studies of health, intergenerational relations and aging in LICs. Elo continues collaborations with Bawah to establish a migration health dataset that links African immigrants to the US to their origins in Ghana. Elo and Guillot are collaborating on a R01-funded project on Mobility, Selectivity, and Migration Mortality that utilizes French and other register data that allow a rigorous follow-up of deaths occurring among migrants in and outside their host country. Thirumurthy has been collaborating with H-P Kohler and Behrman on a NIH application, to be revised and resubmitted, on studying the implications of longer lives for life-course behaviors and decision-making, exploiting variation in mortality from RCTs implementing male circumcision programs. Behrman and Elo collaborate with the Guatemalan INCAP Study to examine, for the first time, the impact of early-life nutrition on changes between young and mature adulthood in physical health, cognitive health and socioeconomic outcomes. Hoke is exploring with MLSFH team members biomarker data collection to develop objective markers of life-course stressors in Malawi. Schofield’s work on sleep and nutrition on cognition in India is breaking new ground in integrating field and lab experiments related to aging. The Global Family Change (GFC) network (H-P Kohler, Gonalons-Pons, et al.) is developing and analyzing innovative indicators of family change relevant to understanding the social implications of global aging, and additional extensive international collaborations are being pursued as part of PARC's Research Networks.

PARC’s signature projects with potentials for innovations in the area of global aging include:

The Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health (MLSFH), a cohort study started in 1998 that enables lifecourse aging research in a very low-income context where such population-based data are exceedingly rare (HP Kohler, Behrman, I Kohler, et al.);

Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) data for 60+ year old respondents in the Chilean Social Protection Survey that provides extensive life-course and economic data on potential determinants of cognitive decline (Elo, Behrman, Karlawish, et al.);

The Network on Migration Advantage (NeMA) contains rich and unique longitudinal data sets from France (with expansions to other countries) on the migrant health advantage, combining a rigorous follow-up of deaths, information on censoring through repeat migration, and linkages to second-generation migrants (Guillot and Elo);

The Guatemalan Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) Nutrition Supplementation Trial Cohort (INSTC), initiated in 1969-1977 as an experimental nutritional supplementation program for children with multiple follow-ups until 2015-7 that allows researchers, for the first time, to study the impact of early-life nutrition on changes between young and mature adulthood in physical health, cognitive health and socioeconomic outcomes (Behrman, Elo, I Kohler, et al.); and

The Global Family Change (GFC) project that creates data resources to document the transformation of the family worldwide and its implications for coresidence and social support of older persons (H-P Kohler, Gonalons-Pons, et al.).