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Translational research on aging: clinical epidemiology as a bridge between the sciences

  • Christopher M. Callahan
    Correspondence
    Reprint requests: Christopher M. Callahan, MD, Indiana University Center for Aging Research, 410 West 10th Street, Suite 2000, Indianapolis, IN 46202-3012.
    Affiliations
    Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Regenstrief Institute, Inc, Indianapolis, Indiana
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  • Tatiana Foroud
    Affiliations
    Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
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  • Andrew J. Saykin
    Affiliations
    Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Center for Neuroimaging, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
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  • Anantha Shekhar
    Affiliations
    Department of Psychiatry, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana
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  • Hugh C. Hendrie
    Affiliations
    Indiana University Center for Aging Research, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Regenstrief Institute, Inc, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Center for Neuroimaging, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Department of Psychiatry, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana
    Search for articles by this author
Published:October 02, 2013DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2013.09.002
      Using the principles of clinical epidemiology, public health officials were able to organize society to prevent the transmission of disease and premature death well before the basic science mechanisms of such interventions were understood.
      • Paneth N.
      Assessing the contributions of John Snow to epidemiology: 150 years after removal of the broad street pump handle.
      Using the same principles, the association between aging, disease, disability, and social structures has been recognized for at least a century.
      • Callahan C.M.
      • Berrrios G.E.
      Reinventing depression: a history of the treatment of depression in primary care, 1940–2004.
      Community-based surveys in the 1950s identified a litany of medical, psychological, and social ailments common among older adults. Since that time, dozens of longitudinal cohort studies in multiple countries have reported similar findings: (1) most older adults live independently at home and most of their needs are provided through informal care systems; (2) these older adults suffer from unmet social and medical needs; and (3) the lack of social, economic, recreational, and educational opportunities contribute to disability.
      • Callahan C.M.
      • Berrrios G.E.
      Reinventing depression: a history of the treatment of depression in primary care, 1940–2004.
      These studies also revealed that conditions once thought to be inevitable concomitants of normal aging were, in fact, preventable or could be properly managed so as to prevent excess disability. A cohort study of older adults in 2013 would reach similar conclusions. What continues to change, however, is this boundary between normal aging and disease and, thus, the range of potential targets for medical or social intervention.
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