Addressing global challenges for aging and dementia
Climate change, air pollution, and pesticides are environmental and occupational hazards shared by all societies. But their impact is magnified many times over in developing nations where rapid growth in industrialization, car ownership, and urban lifestyles are colliding with insufficient research and public health infrastructure.
Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have higher rates of environmental and occupational illnesses and injuries compared to higher income nations. This problem will intensify as the number of older adults and people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD) in LMICs continues to grow. Addressing these challenges requires trained scientists who are experienced in large-scale environmental and occupational health analysis and well-versed in the socioeconomic and policy context affecting healthy aging interventions.
To this end, NIA is excited to join our NIH colleagues at the Fogarty International Center (FIC), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Cancer Institute, and Office of Research on Women’s Health to support the Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) program. Led by FIC, GEOHealth works to build institutions and networks in developing countries for coordinated and collaborative environmental and occupational health research, data management, and training at the local, regional, and global levels. Current GEOHealth hubs are located in Southeast Asia, India, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America.
Expanding GEOHealth to the science of aging
Each NIA GEOHealth hub will be supported by two coordinated, linked awards: 1) a cooperative research award to an institution in a developing nation and 2) a training award to a U.S. institution with substantial NIH involvement to coordinate research training. Applicants must commit to extensive teamwork between these two institutions to meet GEOHealth goals.
Suggested interest areas include:
- Integrating environmental or occupational risk factors into cohort studies in high-exposure areas
- How differences in where people live and work relate to health and cognitive outcomes, especially via changes in access to educational or work opportunities
- Interactions between environmental exposure factors
- Vulnerable or under-researched LMIC populations, including women, children, and older adults
All GEOHealth projects must feature mentored research training and career development programs for LMIC scientists in a variety of disciplines. For more details or to apply for GEOHealth funding, visit RFA-TW-21-001 or RFA-TW-21-002.
Helping to improve environmental and occupational health for older adults in the developing world offers us valuable insights as we seek to address similar conditions back home. Another benefit of this partnership is expanding the diversity of populations included in aging and AD/ADRD research, which will help us make sure potential future treatments will work not just for some, but for all.