The Public Health Dimensions of Cognitive Aging

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Aging, Education, Health Services, Coverage, and Access
Board: Board on Health Sciences Policy

Activity Description

The Institute of Medicine will conduct a study to examine cognitive health and aging, as distinct from Alzheimer's disease. The committee will make recommendations focused on the public health aspects of cognitive aging with an emphasis on the following:

  • Definitions and terminology - The study will explore relevant definitions and terminology with consideration given to preventing unintended consequences of terminology.
  • Epidemiology and surveillance - The focus of the study will be on identifying efforts needed to better understand the public health implications of cognitive aging and its risk and preventive factors, as well as the development of relevant surveillance or monitoring tools and methodologies.
  • Prevention and intervention opportunities - The study will examine opportunities for prevention and intervention taking into account the multiple aspects of enhancing cognitive capacity, prevention of impairment, amelioration of cognitive decline, and promoting cognitive resilience. This will include relevant research on human behavior change and the evidence-based approaches needed to ensure the retention of healthy practices to maintain cognitive health and remediate cognitive decline. 
  • Education of health professionals - This study will explore the education of health professionals related to cognitive health and decline and will identify examples of best practices for educating health professions to ensure high quality care and education for older adults and their families about cognitive aging and its possible consequences.
  • Public awareness and education - The study will consider new approaches for enhancing awareness and disseminating information (with cultural, ethical, and health literacy considerations) to the public and to older adults and their families and caregivers.

The committee will hold information-gathering workshops open to the public during the course of its work. The report will not focus on setting an agenda for basic and biomedical science research as this has been the topic of recent reports and forums. Biomedical research will, however, inform the committee's deliberations and will serve as the foundation for the evidence base of the report.


As of March 2016, the Health and Medicine Division continues the consensus and convening activities previously undertaken by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).


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