Glancing at the World Health Network

The World Health Network is the online face of the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), yet another of the predominantly old school organizations in the wider healthy life extension community that leave me with mixed opinions. I have been watching A4M beat their online presence - a website with a respectable Alexa traffic rank of 52,000 or so - into shape over the past few years. Over that time, the face of A4M as represented by their website - and interviews with the founders in the mainstream media - has evolved to present a much more forward-looking, responsible perspective. Less hormone therapy and supplements, more stem cells, genetics, and modern medical research. I think this is probably best encapsulated by a glance at their front page news headlines and their comparatively new (re)definition of anti-aging medicine:

Anti-aging medicine, an extension of preventive health care, is the next great model of health care for the new millennium. This model is based on the early detection, prevention, and reversal of aging- related diseases. All diseases fall into four categories; the first three-inherited genetic disease, infectious disease, and trauma-account for only 10% of the cost for treating all disease in America. Ninety percent of all health care dollars are spent on extraordinary care in the last two to three years of life. A grand total of fifty percent of the US health care budget is spent on the degenerative diseases of aging [Health Care & Finance Administration, 1996.] One hundred million Americans are currently being treated for one or another degenerative disease at a health care cost of more than $700 billion per year. If we really want to make an impact on health care in this country and in the world, we must focus on the degenerative diseases of aging. If we can slow aging, we can eliminate more than 50% of all disease overnight. We can alter this dreadful course by preventing, delaying, or reversing the diseases associated with aging.

As I've said before, A4M says a lot of the right stuff and their hearts do appear to be in the right place - it's their implementation that leaves much to be desired. While I would like to be able to claim some credit for pushing their public outreach in this direction (you'll notice Longevity Meme RSS feed content showing up on the World Health Network occasionally, and this new definition surfaced around the time I published "What is Anti-Aging?"), I'm sure they've arrived here largely of their own accord and by watching the success of others far more vocal and influential than myself.

It remains to be seen just how deep this exterior gloss will penetrate into the organization; the A4M core business relies of conferences and association with the less reputable side of the marketplace. This continues to be a bone of contention and - I believe - ensures that A4M brings as much harm as help to the future of healthy life extension.

As a final thought, it is the desires of the public that ultimately shape for-profit organizations. Even those for-profits that cater largely to other businesses - such as A4M - are a great deal more responsive to public opinion (as expressed in dollars and page views) than anything else you might find out there. You can pass on your opinion loud and clear by being an educated, aware, vocal customer. Vote with your wallet; don't buy products branded as "anti-aging." Write outraged letters to businesses that are clearly jumping on the "anti-aging" bandwagon and insulting your intelligence. Support medical research and organizations that take a responsible attitude towards longevity and aging research. Talk loudly about your choices as a consumer and why you are making them - ultimately, those business ventures that succeed determine the look of an entire market. We - people like you and I - decide which business ventures succeed via our choice of where to spend our time and money.

In short, you have a great deal of power in these matters - make use of it.