Since April 1, teams in Gujarat have gone about meeting 4,000 people aged over 45 to assess their needs, the first step of a nationwide, 25-year exercise aimed at framing long-term policy initiatives for India’s ageing population.
The Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI), launched last year by the health ministry, has targeted a sample of 60,000 people over 45, whose health will be documented over 25 years. Gujarat began its fieldwork on April 1 this year, along with Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
“Gujarat is in the first phase of the study and along with the UTs it started data collection the earliest. Delhi and Haryana followed,” said Dr P Arokiasamy, LASI project coordinator, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai. IIPS is the nodal agency for the 25-year survey that will include visits and revisits to those targeted.
“The main aim of the massive survey is to get scientific data about the population older than 45,” Arokiasamy said. “Currently there are no targeted health interventions for the ageing population in the country. Once we identify the data we can suggest targeted interventions and work towards reducing the economic burden of old age. We will be able to provide the right medicines and the right insurance packages.”
Teams are collecting details such as financial background, existing health insurance and family members in old-age homes or mental asylums; health history including details of malaria, diabetes, cancer and mental health; and menopause in women.
“The study looks at various social aspects of ageing and gives importance to mental health,” Arokiasamy said.
IIPS is working in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health and University of Southern California. IIPS has partnered with research organisations across the country to collect data from the states. In Gujarat, Taleem Research Foundation, Ahmedabad, is in charge of data collection.
“We have a sample of 4,000 aged 45 and above. We are covering 80 villages and urban wards in 14 districts and 40 villages and urban wards in each of the UTs,” said Dr Irfan Khan, demographer and director of TRF. “We are the first to start the data collection as we completed the house-listing and sampling earlier. We started on April 1.”
A team of 70 including senior researchers, doctors and counsellors aims to complete the project in the next six months. They carry about mini-laptops, equipment to measure various biomarkers, and GPS devices into which they feed data daily.
“The plan is to visit the same person again after two years and see how he or she is doing, what are the diseases people get with age. For 25 years we will document the health of the sample. The data will be collated every year and we are hoping it will start reflecting soon in changes in health policies,” said Khan.
Gujarat’s commissioner of health J P Gupta is monitoring the study in the state. “One of the reasons why we could start early is that we ensured that all the logistics fell in place, from training to getting the instruments for the study,” Gupta said. “The results of the first round for Gujarat and neighbouring UTs will be out by August and we hope to start making changes in health policies as soon as the results are out.”
LASI is jointly funded by the health ministry, the US National Institute on Ageing, and the UN Population Fund-India.