A tremendous amount of activity related to health promotion and disease prevention for older persons is occurring within DHHS. While some activities described above have been led by a sole federal agency, the vast majority of health promotion and disease prevention activities described in this document are collaborative, involving an impressive number of federal partners. Some of these initiatives will not provide information on the effectiveness or cost-effectiveness of a given health promotion or disease prevention intervention for some years to come. However, a large body of information is already available, and more will be emerging in the coming years on methods for promoting health and preventing disease both prior to, and throughout, the aging process.
Innovative models have begun to emerge, and specific efforts have been made both to target hard-to-reach populations and to increase the likelihood that established strategies will be adopted. Even so, more work may be needed to ensure that a larger proportion of older Americans incorporates regular exercise into their daily lives; receives annual flu vaccinations; and obtains screenings for colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and other serious conditions.
Additional efforts may be needed to explore how best to prevent the onset of late-life mental disorders, to maintain and enhance cognitive functioning as people age, and to prevent or delay the onset and progression of cognitive impairment. For example, NIA is planning additional research around neurodegenerative disorders as well as normal cognitive brain functioning. Finally, there exist a number of surveys that provide data and information on the health behaviors and health status of older Americans, yet there has not been a comprehensive analysis of the most effective uses of national surveys in evaluating the efficacy of existing interventions or tracking trends in healthy behaviors over time. In fact, many of the surveys described under Topic Area IV have not focused explicitly on the health-promoting activities and health behaviors of older respondents. It may be useful to explore adding questions that focus explicitly on the use of health promotion and disease prevention services by older Americans. (The Veteran's Administration has conducted a large national health promotion/disease prevention survey that may serve as a useful model in this regard.)