Visualizing the Global Burden of Aging

Today I was pointed to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an organization that - among other things - provides a set of interesting visualization tools for exploring changing health and mortality data by country and cause. Part of the focus here is the traditional one on infectious disease and developing world health, but the data is global in extent, and at least two thirds of the burden of disease in the world is in fact the burden of aging: the progressive failure of the body due to damage that accumulates as a natural consequence of the operation of metabolism.

Unlike most of the presentations I've glanced at in the past, these visualizations also cover years spent in ill health, not just the bottom line of mortality. You can spent quite a lot of time walking through this data and finding things you might not have known about trends and risks.

So very much of this suffering and death due to aging - hundred of millions with disability and disease, and more than 100,000 deaths every day - is now beginning to verge on preventable. We are just a handful of years away from first generation rejuvenation therapies, were the right research strategies fully funded at this time. That full funding is minuscule in the grand scheme of things: perhaps one to two billion dollars over the next ten to twenty years. The lower end of that range is about 5% of the budget of the National Institute on Aging over the same period of time, or about what is spent on pushing a single drug to market in the Big Pharma ecosystem, or less than than the sums wasted on US politics in a presidential election year, or less than the cost per machine for some military aircraft. Priorities.


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