My inbox is full of so much that I rarely get around to reading. But, waking early and scrolling through my gmail, I opened The Conversation, where I found a series of in-depth articles on a variety of topics to include Insight 46.
In March 1946, in the early months after the end of World War II, Britain initiated a study about maternal health, which came about because of a decades-long concern about decreasing birth rates, infant mortality and a need to grow the postwar labor force. A representative sample of the babies born in a particular week in March 1946 were followed. Over the years the study developed multiple foci. Over the years it became the longest continuously running study of health over the human life course in the world.
In 2016, a sub-study of 502 people from the cohort, dubbed Insight 46, was begun to address brain ageing and dementia. Dementia is an ancient word meaning “out of mind,” but today it refers to a syndrome of acquired (not present from birth), progressive cognitive impairment, severe enough to interfere with everyday activities such as planning meals, managing bills and medicines and housekeeping, alzheimer’s disease being the most common form.
Every year the researchers send participants a birthday card with a newsletter that summarizes key findings from the cohort over the previous year. Over the years, study members had attended research clinics to have their hearts, blood vessels and bones scanned. Those leading this study wondered if these participants would be willing to travel to London to be injected with a radioactive tracer, then lie in a scanner for an hour for the purpose of beginning to track their brains. They report from sessions led by a focus group expert, that the response was affirmative. Some feedback from these meetings:
“You tested our hearts, bones, why not our brains?”
“I think anything that we can do to try and limit, reduce the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, dementia, absolutely has my 100% support.”
“I’m happy just even talking about it now, I feel less scared…”
One man wrote: “I am happy to boast that I have been described as one of the best-studied people on the planet. And I’m quietly proud that information about me, ranging from how many pairs of bootees I had at birth to the state of my memory now, has appeared in at least eight books and 700 other publications.”
How wonderful that people are willing to do this not only for their own sakes but for that of others!
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: All that has been learned from this study that originally was directed towards maternal health and infant mortality speaks to how our contributions can grow over time, leaving a legacy we never imagined.
- Information as reported in The Conversation dated December 28, 2022.