Longevity Nation – Enhancing Research, Development and Education for Healthy Longevity

Conference Resolution

Due to the aging of the global population and the derivative increase in major aging-related non-communicable diseases and their economic burden, there is an urgent international need to enhance the research, development and education for effective and safe therapeutic interventions that are designed to mitigate degenerative aging processes, thus preventing and eliminating the main underlying contributors for major chronic aging-related diseases and thus improving the healthy and productive longevity for the entire population. Insofar as aging is the main contributing factor of major chronic age-related diseases, the research and development efforts in the fields of aging amelioration (geroscience) and prevention of major chronic diseases are integrally related.

Israel can be an important contributor to these international R&D and educational efforts, for which it can offer its proven record of scientific and technological achievements and innovation, its strong supportive infrastructure for research and development, its highly skilled scientific and technological work force, including leadership in diverse branches of biomedical research on aging and aging-related diseases. Yet a stronger effort will be needed to build on those strengths and realize the country’s potential in the field for the benefit of the Israeli and global population. Israel can help further promote the field, not only locally, but internationally, by creating and sharing policy suggestions for the advancement of the field, as the advancement of the longevity field is equally important internationally, for Israel, for the Middle East and for the entire global community.

Building on the past achievements, there is still a vital need to enhance R&D and education for healthy longevity in Israel to address the urgent problems and future demands of the aging society.

There are several specific pressing needs and demands for the development of the healthy longevity field in Israel. The needs and the corresponding recommendations listed below closely follow the points made by the Vetek (Seniority) Association – the Movement for Longevity and quality of Life and allied organizations in their recommendations for “Enhancing research, development and education for the promotion of healthy longevity and prevention of aging-related diseases”. These recommendations were published as strategic topics for future discussion as a part of the Israel National Masterplan on Aging published by Knesset in 2019. These needs and policy recommendations should be now considered again by decision makers in Israel with the purpose of implementation. Moreover, they should be considered in a wider international perspective, insofar as these needs and recommendations are quite common and applicable for virtually any country. Moreover, these needs and recommendations can be advocated and promoted via international frameworks and organizations, both globally and for specific countries on a case-by-case basis.

The needs and recommendations are as follows:

  • The need to increase resources and investments for the geroscience and healthy longevity field.

Today, there are about 980,000 people in Israel over the age 65 (about 11% of the country’s population), and it is expected that the number of the elderly will increase to 1.6 million by 2035. This reality demands the preparedness of the healthcare and welfare systems to provide worthy and sufficient services for the elderly, adequate solutions for the prevention of systemic economic and healthcare collapse, as well as for the equitable social inclusion of the elderly, and as a result the improvement of their quality of life and the county’s economic growth.  To achieve those goals, the advancement of medical research and development is a necessary condition, supporting all the research stages, from fundamental through applied to clinical research. Therefore, considerable resources must be dedicated to the advancement of research, development and education aimed at the amelioration of degenerative aging processes and debilitating aging-related diseases in order to extend healthy longevity as much as possible for the entire population.

Yet, the investment of human and material resources in the field is still insufficient in Israel. Presently, the State of Israel expends only about 0.5% of its general state research budget for the research of aging and aging-related diseases. There is also a lack of centralized R&D support frameworks for the field of aging in Israel, such as the NIH’s National Institute on Aging that exists in the US. Therefore, defined budget frameworks must be established for medical research and development that will specifically address the issue of aging, and promote healthy longevity and prevention of aging-related diseases. Specifically, a defined significant percentage of the research and development budgets of the relevant ministries must be dedicated to the field. These should include the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Science and Technology; the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education; the Israel Innovation Authority; the Israel Science Foundation; the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities including the National Infrastructure Forum for Research and Development; the Ministry for Social Equality; the National Insurance Institute; the bi-national and international research programs in which Israel is a partner, particularly in the divisions concerning the research and treatment of non-communicable chronic diseases.

These frameworks must provide funding for calls for research proposals, grants, scholarships, services and action plans designed to alleviate the degenerative aging process and improve the longevity and quality of life of the older population, on behalf and in cooperation of the relevant ministries and institutions.

  •   The need to increase education in the field of geroscience and healthy longevity, on all levels and for all segments of society.

There is a now a severe deficit of relevant educational materials of any kind in Israel, in the field of aging generally, and particular areas of geroscience and healthy longevity promotion in particular. Currently, aging research is severely under-represented in all academic and other educational frameworks. Teaching programs that increase motivation and stimulate scientific thinking in the aging field should be developed for all levels and all segments of society: from schoolchildren through university students at different study stages (undergraduate and graduate) to interns and specialists, and as a part of adult enrichment studies for all.

In particular, it is necessary to develop study materials, such as courses, text books, problem solvers, guidelines and professional specialization programs in the biology of aging, especially for physicians and biologists, involving the fields adjacent to aging research, as well as educational materials for the general public and multidisciplinary, social implications of this research. The materials for the general public should include lectures, reviews of the latest scientific developments in the field and practical recommendations for the promotion of healthy longevity and for the preparation of the younger generation to the challenges that expect them. There must be prepared and disseminated authoritative, evidence-based information about lifestyle regimens (such as nutrition, physical activity and rest) that promote healthy longevity and prevent aging-related ill health. A variety of educational teaching and training means should be developed, including conferences, printed materials, knowledge competitions, interactive web platforms, games and other accessible technological means. Relevant ministries and institutions should be involved in the development of and providing access to these educational programs, from the Ministry of Education and the Council for Higher Education to local authorities, public associations, and community centers. In order to facilitate the progress, there is a need to encourage the establishment of educational pilots and the examination of good practices in relevant ministries and other institutional frameworks.

  • The need to establish and improve evaluation measures for degenerative aging, early detection and prevention of aging-related diseases and to implement these evaluation measures in preventive health programs for the aging population.

One of the primary specific needs to develop the healthy longevity field, in Israel and elsewhere, appears to be the establishment of agreeable, scientific evidence-based evaluation criteria for the efficacy and safety of geroprotective (geroscience or healthspan-enhancing) therapies. Such commonly agreed evaluation criteria are presently lacking, in Israel and elsewhere. Yet, they appear to be absolutely necessary not only to assess and predict aging health for disease prevention purposes, but also in order to set up the end points for the development of geroscience-based therapies and diagnostics and provide value-based incentives for academic, public and commercial R&D entities involved in the aging field. Commonly agreed, science-based and authoritative guidelines should be provided for such measures by authoritative and representative national and international organizations, following wide pluralistic and evidence-based scientific consultation.

To develop such measures, it is necessary to increase and improve the collection and processing of various types of data on aging, including biological and medical data in combination with behavioral and social, economic and environmental data. In this process, it is necessary to establish and/or expand relevant databases (registries) and analytical platforms and tools (knowledge centers) in order to facilitate the collection, design, accessibility, analysis, integration and sharing of data on aging, promotion of healthy longevity and prevention of aging-related diseases. These databases and analytical tools should be used predictively to model large amounts of data for more effective diagnosis and treatment and to allow personalized medicine for the older subjects, with reference to their aging process. 

     In Israel, in order to establish and expand these measurement and analysis systems, it is necessary to involve the relevant ministries and institutions, in particular the Ministry of Health, with the maximum possible cooperation of other entities who have access to data on aging, such as research institutions, hospitals, health maintenance organizations, local authorities and public and commercial research communities. The goals of evaluating the aging processes, early detection and prevention of aging-related ill health as a whole (preventing old-age multimorbidity) and extension of healthy lifespan, should be specifically defined in relevant frameworks and programs, such as the National Program for Personalized Medicine and the National Program for Digital Health, as well as relevant international health promotion programs where Israel takes part. Initiatives and pilots of different extents on the subject should be encouraged in all sectors, while supporting their cooperation.

Combined, these measures and policies should advance the geroscience and healthy longevity field, nationally and internationally, for the benefit of the elderly and the entire population.