NIH Grant in Kenya to Enhance Understanding of Aging in Africa
June 8, 2022
ANN ARBOR – With support from Center for Global Health Equity, an international team of researchers has received a $338k grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address major gaps in population-level data on aging in Kenya, one of Africa’s most populous nations.
The NIH grant supports pilot work to lay groundwork for future NIH grant applications aimed at launching the full-scale Longitudinal Study of Health and Aging in Kenya (LOSHAK), a cohort study of Kenyan adults aged 45 and older. The study will enroll thousands of participants and will follow them over the course of years. Key focus areas include Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, mental health, the health and economic impacts of climate change and air pollution, and factors influencing late-life economic well-being.
The LOSHAK study utilizes an existing study platform, the Kaloleni/Rabai Community Health and Demographic Surveillance System, a population-based research platform that includes more than 14,000 individuals over the age of 45 living in coastal Kenya.
The Kaloleni/Rabai study is run by AKU, whose expertise and leadership “is central to the success of LOSHAK,” said Josh Ehrlich, research assistant professor with the Institute for Social Research and co-principal investigator of the NIH grant. “Our partners at AKU have strong relationships with communities in this region, and these relationships—the trust and understanding they’ve built—make all the difference in the quality of the research.”
LOSHAK is also part of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) network, a family of studies on aging in 45 countries modeled on the US HRS that began in the 1990s. “The HRS provides extensive data to understand how health, economic, and family networks interact over time to affect aging, economic well-being, and social relations,” said Kenneth Langa, associate director of the HRS and co-investigator on the grant. Currently, the only HRS network study in Africa is in South Africa, making LOSHAK only the second such project in the region.
Another key feature of HRS projects is that all data collected are made publicly available. “The National Institute on Aging funds the HRS and ensures that all HRS network studies make their data public for researchers all over the world,” said Langa.