End-of-year reflections from Peter Allebeck (JPI MYBL chair)

Newsletter December 2022

To all JPI MYBL Members, collaborators, and supporters,

As the year draws to a close, I would like to thank you for your continued involvement and support.

The JPI MYBL was formed to increase awareness and knowledge about the role of demographic change for social, economic and health development. Demographic change is a major determinant of the health and social challenges all countries in the world are facing.

China is an interesting country to follow when it comes to demographic change. A recent Lancet commission report (Lancet Dec 3-9) summarizes the situation in China with regard to aging and health. The combination of low fertility and increasing life expectancy has led to a rapidly increasing aging population. The social, economic and medical challenges to achieve healthy aging are detailed in the report. I also recommend a nice video presenting key messages of the report (https://www.thelancet.com/commission/healthy-ageing-in-China)

In another Lancet commission (Lancet Oct 8-14) a comprehensive analysis of the COVID pandemic is presented. In addition to what we already know about how the pandemic particularly affected older persons and social vulnerable groups, they point out the devastating effect on a younger generation. School closures and home sitting will have long lasting effects on academic career and earnings. Thus the demographic effects of the pandemic takes many forms and the effect on the group of  future older persons remains to be fully understood. While most of the national and European debate is around health systems and how they can be improved, less focus is on the social and behavioural aspects of demographic change.

When, we this autumn have been able to gather for physical meetings, we have taken a look back at the achievements made, what is currently going on, and what could be our plans for the future. We have launched four calls for joint European research projects and funded in total 24 projects with a total of 22,8 million €. We have had four fast track projects, synthesizing evidence and pointing out knowledge gaps on issues such as longer working life and migration. With our Scientific Advisory Board and Societal Advisory Board, we have solid contacts with scientific expertise as well as stakeholders at European level.

While it seems as if national priorities are focused on health services and health systems research, as well as digitalisation and AI development, we find it important to point out the role of social and behavioural sciences. Understanding demographic change is vital to understanding the major societal challenges we are facing.

As mentioned elsewhere in this newsletter, we are currently funding six projects, and we look forward in the coming year to see results and review policy implications of these. We understand that national member organization have to follow the streamline of EU ”partnerships”. The coming year we need to define the JPI MYBL’s role in the European landscape on science and policy related to demographic change. We have ongoing commitments to fulfil, and still a mission and a ”brand” to market. I look forward to continued discussions next year on our experiences and our future.

I wish all our members, collaborators and supporters best wishes for the Christmas and New Year holidays to come.

Peter Allebeck, Chair, JP MYBL