Acute illness and chronic disease are triggered by a multitude of exogenous and endogenous factors, by health-relevant behavior (e.g. sedentary lifestyle), and the societal environment. Many diseases are age-related in the sense that exposure to risk-factors, which eventually drive the development of morbidity, change or cumulate over the life-span. This constitutes a major public-health challenge that needs to be met with systematic knowledge on the dy- namics of pathogenesis and disease progression in different phases of human life as well as by knowledge on how individuals and their social environments may prevent and/or cope with age-related diseases over the life-course. Furthermore, knowledge is needed to assess how shifts in demography correlate with the accumulation of diseases in specific populations and how the resulting challenges can be met by increasingly extended and adapted health systems.
With this Focus Area, we will make use of the unique Berlin/Brandenburg location that is often regarded as a model area for rapidly aging societies and join expert knowledge on age-related disease processes from natural sciences, biomedicine, humanities, and social sciences at Freie Universität Berlin, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE), the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Benefiting from a rich pool of methodological approaches and technologies, the Focus Area will provide a unique interdisci- plinary platform spanning the molecular antecedents of age-related disease to the conse- quences for individuals and society as they respond to challenged health.
In contrast to other research networks that focus on disease and health in old age, we will promote a comparative approach to explore disease progression, individual management of illness, and public health by contrasting different phases of life. However, the Focus Area will also build on previous research at the Freie Universität Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin on health in old age. While the societal level will naturally concentrate on the situation in Germany, we must also account for an increasingly multicultural composition of our society and include comparative international analyses of demographic shifts impacting on health systems.