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IF YOU WERE BORN IN AMERICA IN 1900, the likelihood that you would reach what we now consider old age was far from assured. Life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th century was 47 in the United States. Now it’s pushing 80 — and is higher than that in more than 30 countries.
For that we can thank public health. Immunization campaigns and infectious disease control, healthier mothers and babies, education and policies to reduce smoking, and countless other public health advances have contributed to more than 30 years of extra life for the average person. But public health’s resounding success has created a daunting challenge — the mounting health, social and economic concerns associated with our aging society.
As the stories that follow attest, Fielding School faculty, students, and alumni are confronting the challenge head–on by identifying problems, finding solutions, and promoting strategies for healthier aging. Public health has created conditions in which a 47th birthday is often merely a midpoint; now it is helping to ensure that the many years that follow are full of life.