Duke Kunshan Professor Chenkai Wu has written a commentary for leading science journal The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific focused on frailty and healthy aging.
His article, titled “Embracing complexity: new horizons in frailty research,” discusses the difficulties for healthcare research in studying frailty and sets out an agenda for future studies.
“With aging populations around the world, frailty is becoming an increasingly major issue for healthcare provision,” said Wu, professor of global health. “In order to help people live better lives in older age, it’s important that we identify the areas where research is lacking so that we can focus on those areas going forward.”
Frailty is a complex age-related clinical syndrome that affects around 10 percent of older people living in the community worldwide. It can make those individuals more vulnerable to injury and less capable of looking after themselves.
While there have been some advances in frailty research, progress in understanding it has remained slow, according to Wu, whose article sets out three main areas he believes research should focus on.
The first of these is to resolve debates over how to measure frailty. Numerous frailty measurements have been proposed over the years, but no consensus has been reached on which to use. This has to be resolved, he says, ideally with the acceptance of a “simple, rapid and inexpensive measure” that would be suitable for widespread use.
Secondly, urgent action is needed to expand frailty research to less developed regions, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, he says, which would help with forward planning and the more effective use of resources to tackle the issue.
Thirdly, there should be a greater focus on improving the quality of life among the frail, he says, and identifying ways to reduce or counteract health risks to them.
“Identifying socioeconomic, lifestyle, and health features that could mitigate frailty-induced health risks and promote resilience is critical for guiding patient-centred management of frailty,” his commentary says.
The three research directions set out in his article, could complement existing frailty research, says Wu, leading to better assessments of the issue by health professionals and ultimately improving the health and well-being of older adults living with frailty.