Improving Healthy Longevity Through Philanthropy

WASHINGTON, DC – In the past century, the average life expectancy for people in the United States has doubled, thanks in large part to advances in medicine, science, and technology. Globally, the number of people age 65 years and older is expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2050. This growing number of people advancing in age raises important questions—what are we going to do with that added time? How are we going to live out these extra years? And how will we extend the human lifespan even further?

Many people associate growing old with being sick, being less independent, less capable, and less mentally sharp.

We know it doesn’t have to be this way.

That is why the U.S. National Academy of Medicine developed the Healthy Longevity Global Competition. To bring together researchers, scientists, clinicians, and others to find solutions and develop innovative approaches to the field of aging and healthy longevity. The NAM is not only working across scientific, medical, and engineering disciplines, but also collaborating in new ways across the public and private sectors, with philanthropists and nonprofits—with any partner that can further our progress. 

Three philanthropists made a commitment to extending the human healthspan and improving healthy longevity worldwide and made the development of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition possible.

Dr. Joon Yun, president and managing partner of Palo Alto Investors LP, follows a philanthropic philosophy that says “be the first volunteer.” When he was presented with an opportunity to become the first funder of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, he took it without hesitation. This was an opportunity for Yun to contribute to the field of aging, which he describes as “the largest, most important, most interesting problem to solve.” It can be difficult to attract venture capital to aging-related work, but Yun knew the effort was about more than funding research—it was about investing in people. Through the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, Yun wants to unlock value for society and change the status quo of aging.

Investing in the Healthy Longevity Global Competition was an opportunity for Martine Rothblatt to balance the scales and support a traditionally underfunded field of research. Rothblatt, founder and CEO of United Therapeutics, sees aging as “an important part of the healthcare curriculum that hasn’t received much attention.” In the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, she sees an opportunity to fund ideas and innovations that could allow people to remain physically strong and healthy into their 80s and 90s. Rothblatt believes that with a competition model “you get 10 times the effort” and that collective effort could result in breakthroughs. That prospect enticed her to invest in the Healthy Longevity Global Competition.

A 50-year career as a geriatrician preceded Dr. John “Jack” Rowe’s support of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition. As the Julius B. Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging Health Policy at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Rowe is training the next generation of providers. In his lessons, he emphasizes the predictive nature of socialization in health, particularly the health of older people. Through the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, he hopes to see new ideas for technology to reduce social isolation. Rowe anticipates the competition will provide short term results that can be implemented and developed in the next decade, he predicts “we will be in a much better position than we are now.”

By supporting the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, Yun, Rothblatt, and Rowe are not only funding new research and innovation, but investing in the lives of citizens around the world.

The Healthy Longevity Global Competition is part of the NAM’s Healthy Longevity Global Grand Challenge. The Grand Challenge is a worldwide movement to improve physical, mental, and social well-being for people as they age. The initiative aims to 1) comprehensively address the challenges and opportunities presented by global population aging; 2) catalyze breakthrough ideas and research that will extend the human healthspan; 3) generate transformative and scalable innovations worldwide; 4) and build a broad ecosystem of support by enabling scientists, engineers, innovators, entrepreneurs, health leaders, policy makers, and the public to work together to achieve the promise of healthy longevity.

Learn more about the Healthy Longevity Global Competition.

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