Using Public Support to Lobby for Greater Public Funding of Aging Research

I don't pay a great deal of attention to the political lobbying efforts that take place in the community of supporters of aging research, as governmental funding is usually the last to the table, arriving long after the hard work of opening up a new field is done. There are a number of lobbying groups actively working in the US political system, and some single-issue political parties in Europe performing an analogous function. The material here is an example of the work taking place amongst those who lobby, the Alliance for Longevity Initiatives in this case. It is the business of persuading politicians that it is in their short-term interest to divert more funding into useful programs, while hoping that said funding doesn't just get funneled into irrelevant and wasted efforts set up by the politically connected.

A new national poll of registered voters in the United States demonstrates broad bipartisan support for advancing research into longevity treatments that would extend healthy human lifespan. The poll, which was conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of The Alliance for Longevity Initiatives (A4LI), found that 70% of respondents support medical research that seeks to treat the cellular aging process as a means to prevent or delay the onset of all age-related chronic diseases. The majority of poll participants also believe that the US government should prioritize funding for this area of research.

However, Americans' support for aging research is in stark contrast to the realities of US biomedical research priorities. Currently, the National Institute of Aging's (NIA) Division of Aging Biology receives just 0.6% of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) nearly $52 billion budget. Instead, most of the funding goes to specific diseases, such as Alzheimer's and cancer, despite longevity treatments having the potential to combat all age-related conditions at once.

Age-related chronic diseases and conditions have both enormous human and economic costs. Aging is the greatest risk factor for chronic ailments and death. Eighty percent of Americans 65 or older, have at least one chronic condition and 50 percent have at least two. Age-related chronic conditions are also America's most expensive diseases. Approximately 84 percent of all healthcare costs in the US are treatments for chronic diseases. The share of these costs is even higher for patients who receive healthcare through public programs. Ninety-nine percent of Medicare costs and 80 percent of Medicaid expenditures go toward the treatment of chronic diseases. As of 2016, direct healthcare treatment for chronic diseases costs the US $1.1. trillion. This is nearly equivalent to six percent of America's gross domestic product (GDP).

While the cost of age-related chronic conditions is tremendous, the economic benefits of effectively treating aging are even more significant. It is estimated that increasing healthy life expectancy by just one year would be worth $38 trillion in economic returns in the US and by 10 years these savings and additional economic output would accumulate to $367 trillion.


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