Research is one of the key methods for producing valuable knowledge that has improved how healthcare providers and society understand aging and disease associated with aging, how healthcare providers diagnose and care for patients with geriatric syndromes, and how patients and healthcare providers appreciate the unique presentation and care of diseases in geriatric patients.
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Without adequate funding, the AGS is concerned that the NIA may be unable to fund research that is both crucial to the national interest and scientifically meritorious. Inadequate funding will negatively impact the ability of new investigators to enter this very important field and the NIA will be unable to invest in research studies that often provide valuable evidence. Poor health and functional status do not have to be an inevitable consequence of aging. Now more than ever, sustained levels of NIA funding are needed to improve the health and well-being of older Americans.
The NIA, created by Congress in 1975, is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIA’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of older Americans through research. The Institute leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. Now more than ever, sustained levels of NIA funding are needed to improve the health and well-being of older Americans. The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people, including Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. Recent NIA investments have helped create new and promising research avenues, diagnostic methods, and new treatments.
Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development (VA ORD)
The VA ORD is a vital force in improving veterans’ health care and shaping the future of the VA healthcare system. Today, VA researchers are on the leading edge of research on Alzheimer’s epidemiology and pathogenesis; genomics of diabetes; exercise strategies in the elderly; advances in prosthetic limbs and neuronal regeneration/reactivation; safety considerations and quality improvement for healthcare settings; pathogenesis, management and rehabilitation from stroke and TBI; end of life care models; osteoporosis and osteoarthritis diagnosis, management, and prevention; and use of electronic technology for telemedicine, telemonitoring, and tele-education. The AGS is concerned that without adequate appropriations, the VA may be unable to train a new generation of investigators to carry on its critically important work. With additional funding, for example, the VA could increase its research on Alzheimer’s disease – an illness that proves costly – by tracking trends, maintaining a registry, and testing potential treatments.
The VA ORD aims to improve the health of our veterans and lay the groundwork for improved patient care within the VA. ORD consists of four research services: Biomedical Laboratory Research & Development Service; Clinical Science Research & Development Service; Health Services Research & Development Service; and Rehabilitation Research & Development Research. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for the largest managed healthcare system in the US and has unique opportunities to address some of the most critical issues in health care today. Nearly 50% of the VA’s active patient population, numbering close to 6 million, is over age 65, and close to 1 million are over age 85. VA research includes basic science and clinical investigations of the many different diseases and conditions that affect veterans as well as the optimal delivery of health services and rehabilitation interventions to veterans.
Underrepresentation of Older Adults in Clinical Trials
Clinical drug trials are research studies designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of drug therapies. They are key to understanding the appropriate use of medications, and informing payers about which ones to cover. Unfortunately, despite recent improvements, older adults are significantly underrepresented in clinical drug trials. This disproportionately low participation is troubling and potentially dangerous, given that the reactions of older adults to medications may differ significantly from the reactions of younger participants. After years of being excluded from virtually all clinical trials, recent federal reforms mean that older Americans are, in increasing numbers, finally finding their way into such trials -- but more remains to be done to educate older adults, health professionals, policymakers, and the public about the importance of including older patients in clinical research to ensure drug safety and effectiveness across a broad spectrum of this population.
Working in Partnership: Coalitions
- Friends of the National Institute on Aging (FoNIA)
FoNIA is a broad-based coalition of more than 45 aging, disease, research, and patient groups committed to the advancement of medical research that affects millions of older Americans. FoNIA was founded to support the research and training mission of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and to effectively address current and future challenges in aging research. AGS is a member of the FoNIA executive committee.
- Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA)
FOVA is a diverse coalition of more than 75 national academic, medical and scientific societies, voluntary health and patient advocacy groups and veteran-focused associations that advocate appropriate funding for the health programs that serve the nation's veterans. FOVA members regularly brief members of Congress on the funding needs of health care and research at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), raise awareness of VA's medical care and research programs, and host special events that highlight VA research successes.