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    Decade-long research project that explores aging in South Africa receives NIH/NIA funding for additional waves and national expansion, with a special emphasis on cognitive health

    6 June, 2023

    Researchers from the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (HCPDS), the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of the Witwatersrand, and the University of Cape Town have been awarded $27 million from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to further their collaborative program project Health and Aging in Africa: A Longitudinal Study in South Africa (HAALSI). Plans for the next 5-year phase of HAALSI include a 4th and 5th survey wave of a community-representative cohort in rural Agincourt, South Africa, and the launch of a nationally representative longitudinal HAALSI survey across South Africa.

    According to the World Health Organization, the number of people suffering from dementia globally is projected to rise from 55 million (with over 60% living in low- and middle-income countries) to 78 million in 2030, and 139 million by 2050. In this newly funded phase, HAALSI scientists plan to expand their focus on cognitive aging and dementia. The team will continue to use validated approaches to the study of dementia with an in-depth cognitive assessment on a sub-sample of HAALSI participants using the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP). The resulting data from HAALSI will not only share insights from a region of the world where aging is not well understood, but can be harmonized with other studies of dementia and aging, helping to shed light on the nature of aging within a global context.

    The grant is led by co-principal investigators Lisa Berkman, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and director of HCPDS, and Thomas Gaziano, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the division of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Berkman and Gaziano continue to lead the project with Stephen Tollman, director of MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt), research professor and head of the Health and Population Division, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand. They will be joined for the launch of the HAALSI national survey by Murray Leibbrandt, professor in the School of Economics, University of Cape Town, and Director of Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU).


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