Natalie Falshaw, MSc, Operations & Communications Associate at ESPM on a partnership striving to drive meaningful changes that enhance healthspan for all.
To launch the partnership between European Society of Preventive Medicine and Ageing Research at King’s, a joint symposium took place recently at the Science Gallery, King’s College London. Spearheaded by ESPM’s founder, Dr Michael Sagner, and ARK’s director Dr Richard Siow, this event provided a platform for leading experts in healthy aging and longevity to share their wisdom and visions for the future.
The event, titled Preventive Medicine and Healthspan: from Cell to Clinic to Community –which is the research motto of the European Society of Preventive Medicine – covered the multifaceted, holistic and collaborative healthcare philosophy at the core of the ESPM-ARK partnership. By focusing on enhancing health and wellbeing, both within clinical environments and across communities, this partnership aspires to create a profound and lasting transformation in public health and clinical practice. This will be achieved through the education and support of researchers, health care practitioners and policymakers.
The series of talks at the launch event followed this theme and did not disappoint. The event featured Pekka Puska, the newly appointed President of ESPM and a renowned figure in Finnish public health. His pioneering work in the North Karelia Project, an unprecedented population-based intervention from 1960 to 1977, effectively curbing cardiovascular disease mortality through lifestyle modifications, exemplifies the potential of preventive and predictive medicine to revolutionise public health. During his presentation, Puska shared invaluable lessons gleaned from five decades of prevention and public health efforts.
The event also included a presentation from Dag Aarsland, who explored healthy cognitive aging and dementia prevention through the RADAR-AD initiative, an EU funded academic – industry programme led by King’s College London, using mobile and digital technologies to monitor cognitive health. Payam Barnaghi highlighted his research at the UK Dementia Research Institute on using artificial intelligence in early dementia detection. Claire Steves shared insights into community health efforts through the Twins UK initiative and ZOE’s COVID Symptom Study. Raghib Ali OBE, from Our Future Health, delivered a keynote lecture on his involvement in the UK’s largest health research initiative, involving up to five million adult volunteers to collect comprehensive health data for innovative disease prevention and treatment. The talks concluded with Lisa Ireland from Longevity Science Foundation moderating a panel discussion with all the speakers, facilitating an insightful exchange of ideas. The symposium also provided a platform for Guy Hembury, Vice President of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, and Professor Richard Trembath, Executive Director of King’s Health Partners, to underscore the crucial intersection of science, policy, and clinical research at King’s College London, aligning with the overarching goals of the ESPM-ARK partnership.
The symposium created a one-of-a-kind platform, uniting a wide spectrum of individuals, from esteemed scientists and clinicians to public health officials, students and entrepreneurs. Together, this diverse group is primed to tackle the challenges posed by the chronic disease epidemic and the aging population, devising solutions that cut across different domains. The ESPM-ARK launch event has firmly established the groundwork for continued interdisciplinary discussions. By extending an invitation to all, this inclusive approach guarantees that a broad range of voices are heard and taken into account when addressing these pressing issues.
This new partnership and launch event is just the beginning of an exciting journey toward catalysing health care reform through preventive medicine to enhance healthspan.
Behind the collaboration
So, why now? The partnership between the European Society of Preventive Medicine and Ageing Research at King’s is a strategic move born out of the pressing need to address two major global health challenges: the epidemic of chronic diseases and our rapidly aging population.
ESPM’s core mission is centered around preventing and predicting chronic and age-related diseases across all stages of life, aligning perfectly with ARK’s multidisciplinary approach to understanding the biology of aging and enhancing healthspan and longevity in our communities.
Chronic diseases, encompassing conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory ailments and type 2 diabetes, have emerged as the leading global causes of death and disability, profoundly affecting our quality of life.
The surge in chronic diseases and multimorbidity since the turn of the century cannot be solely attributed to population aging. Once confined to older age groups, these conditions now surface among middle-aged adults, suggesting that factors beyond chronological aging contribute. In some alarming cases, even children are affected, underlining the complex web of causation.
Both ESPM and ARK recognise that these seemingly distinct issues share many underlying mechanisms, as highlighted by the twelve hallmarks of aging, and furthermore, understand that their independent and collective impact extends beyond health, straining economies worldwide.
What can be done?
To effectively tackle the rising burden of chronic disease, multimorbidity and aging, we must investigate and address the contributing factors. Evidence shows that health and chronic disease status are largely dependent on modifiable factors beyond clinical interventions, such as lifestyle and environment.
Unfortunately, our healthcare systems are not structured to operate with these factors in mind.
Due to a variety of factors such as insufficient funding, resource limitations and a fundamental gap in understanding systems biology, our approach to managing health crises tends to be reactive rather than proactive and preventive.
Moreover, the rise of affordable ultra-processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, global inflation and the cost of living crisis, coupled with increasingly limited access to healthcare services, particularly affecting those in deprived socio-economic areas, often forces individuals to accept poor diets, physical inactivity, financial stress, and mental and emotional strain. This situation not only accelerates the pathophysiological progression of chronic diseases but also exacerbates health disparities.
Benjamin Franklin once said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and longevity advocates agree. The ESPM-ARK partnerships is on a mission to actualise this philosophy and will do so through a number of initiatives:
- Pioneer P4 medicine integration – P4 medicine, encompassing prediction, prevention, personalisation and participation, unites advanced technology, environment-biology interactions, evidence-based interventions and an in-depth comprehension of chronic disease mechanisms. The advocacy for and implementation of this P4 framework within existing healthcare systems can usher in more effective, individualised and proactive care with a strong emphasis on disease prevention. Supported by consumer health technologies and brands like Dexcom (offering continuous glucose monitors), Muhdo (providing genetic and epigenetic testing for personalised health advice), and Withings (delivering healthtech monitoring solutions), individuals can take control of their wellbeing and curtail the pathophysiological progression of chronic diseases themselves.
- Host global educational symposia – With plans to host international educational symposiums, these gatherings will bring together academics and clinicians, creating a forum where ideas and innovations converge. They will also include interactions with the WHO and their commitment to a decade of healthy aging. International and cross-functional collaboration will raise awareness and spark transformative conversations to redefine the landscape of preventive healthcare.
- Offer bespoke educational workshops – Clinicians will benefit from up-to-date, cutting-edge preventive medicine strategies aimed at extending healthspan. By equipping healthcare providers with the latest tools and knowledge, this initiative intends to empower them to deliver more effective, patient-centric care.
- Fund research collaborations – Funding and facilitating workshops focusing on research collaborations can help effectively bridge the gap between academia and industry and create cutting-edge, synergistic partnerships to optimize patient care.
- Support the next generation – To ensure that the next generation of healthcare providers are well-versed in the principles of preventive medicine, a variety of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs will be designed and offered.
This partnership and these associated initiatives aim to shift our healthcare focus from disease management to prevention. Furthermore, by dismantling barriers between medical disciplines, recognising the interrelated nature of chronic diseases, and fostering dialogue from cellular to community levels, ESPM together with ARK, Dr Michael Sagner and Dr Richard Siow, aims to drive meaningful change to enhance healthspan for all.
Natalie Falshaw, MSc, Health Research Consultant and Writer
Natalie is a private health research consultant working to help individuals learn more about their unique biological makeup, and empower them to take control of their health and wellbeing with evidence-based information. She also writes articles to discuss and disseminate complex ideas on metabolic health, longevity and the microbiome to raise awareness for modifiable risk factors with the goal of inspiring readers to make lifestyle changes to prevent or manage chronic disease.
With a BSc in Neuroscience from the University of Leeds and an MSc in Microbiome Research from King’s College London where she undertook her research project in the Department of Twins and Genetic Epidemiology, Natalie well versed in systems biology, the gut-brain axis, the role of the microbiome in health and disease, and epigenetics, meaning her niche cross-functional skill set puts her in a strong position to help drive meaningful change through her voluntary work with the European Society of Preventive Medicine in partnership with Ageing Research at King’s.