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NIA’s updated strategic directions: A roadmap for progress

Re-posted from on 17 Mar 2016.

Richard Hodes
Richard Hodes, Director of National Institute on Aging

At the National Institute on Aging, our shared vision is one in which all Americans enjoy robust health and independence with advancing age. Although we have come far in 40 years of supporting and  conducting research, we in the scientific community will need to think broadly, creatively, intelligently—and strategically—to pursue this goal most effectively.

I am proud to let you know that an updated version of NIA’s Strategic Directions, Aging Well in the 21st Century, is now available. This important document provides a point of reference for priority-setting and a framework for systematic analysis of the Institute’s scientific portfolio and assessing progress. For researchers and the larger community, it indicates the Institute’s scientific priority areas within the rapidly evolving field of aging research.

A Collaborative Development Process

With coordination through the NIA Office of Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation, NIA developed and refined these goals over the past year. Critical to the process was gaining input from our many stakeholders through a formal Request for Information. We received many thoughtful responses from the research community, non-governmental organizations, partners within the NIH and elsewhere within the federal government, and individuals from the general public. Members of the National Advisory Council on Aging also offered valuable feedback.

NIA’s previous strategic approach was published in 2007. Since then, we have made a number of important revisions. Most critically, we have organized our approach into three “functional” areas:

  • Understanding the Dynamics of the Aging Process
  • Improving the Health, Well-Being, and Independence of Adults as they Age
  • Supporting the Research Enterprise

You will see that we have more fully laid out our goals in the areas of basic biology and basic behavioral and social research. We have addressed, for example, the emerging area of “geroscience,” which examines the interactions between the aging process itself and the many chronic diseases and conditions which affect people later in life. We also emphasize the importance of investigations into behavior and behavior change and the underlying mechanisms through which they affect actions on an individual level.

The updated Strategic Directions also reflect NIA’s new Framework for addressing health disparities among the aging population. Finally, we articulated a specific goal in the crucial area of communications outreach and information dissemination.

Targeted Planning Efforts Continue

Given the breadth of NIA’s mandate, the document is necessarily wide-ranging. However, more targeted strategic planning efforts are continuing. For example, the goals outlined in Living Well are fully consistent with the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and the NIH Alzheimer’s Bypass Budget, where Alzheimer’s specific materials provide considerably greater detail about plans and priorities for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

And, of course, we will continue to signal institutional priorities in other ways—through Funding Opportunity Announcements, conferences and workshops, and right here on the Inside NIA blog.

I encourage you to review NIA’s Strategic Directions and to use that information to think about how you can contribute to the national effort to realize our vision of robust health and independence for all older Americans. I welcome your feedback on this plan.