Professor Rebecca Hardy (MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London; LHA UCL) and Dr Wahyu Wulaningsih (LHA UCL, PILAR) visited Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada between May 1-5, 2017 to explore collaboration opportunities which involve the UK and Indonesia. This visit was funded by the UCL Global Engagement Fund and Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada (FoM UGM).
Rebecca Hardy is a Professor in Epidemiology and Medical Statistics with over 20 years of
experience investigating how individual characteristics and our environment since birth, childhood, through adulthood that influence healthy ageing in later life. During the visit, she delivered a lecture at FoM UGM, in which she spoke to Indonesian students, clinicians and researchers about her experience in studying the process of ageing. Healthy ageing, according to Hardy, is not just about how long you live, or being free from disease, but also about functioning well in old age. Being able to care for oneself and participate in social activities, for instance, are part of healthy ageing.
A life course approach to study healthy ageing
Ageing is a complex process and starts from birth. To find out how we can achieve healthy ageing in old age, scientists have started to evaluate what events could influence the decline of bodily function as we age. In addition, it is necessary to tease out when precisely these events adversely influence the ageing process. For some events, an occurrence in adulthood may be less hazardous on one’s health compared to if they occur in childhood. This ‘life course’ approach can help policymakers and practitioners identify subgroups such as specific age groups in the population who are more susceptible to experience adverse effects of ageing in old age, and therefore, can inform precision prevention.
Insight into challenges in research in Indonesia
Hardy and Wulaningsih visited Sardjito Hospital to engage with clinicians and discuss important issues in lifelong health, such as childhood growth and development. They also took part in a workshop on academic writing for publication organised by FoM UGM at Swiss Bel-In Hotel in Solo, where they exchanged expertise and experience on getting their research published with local researchers. The workshop is particularly aimed to boost research productivity of local researchers, by providing them allotted time and space to fully concentrate on writing for publication. In this workshop, PILAR had a chance to administer a questionnaire about the experience in conducting research in Indonesia to the selected group of researchers. When being asked about what challenges they experience in conducting research in Indonesia, four among the fourteen local researchers mentioned the lack of funding and infrastructure or equipment as the main challenge. Three researchers pointed out difficulties with bureaucracy as the main challenge, with one of them said, “Sometimes we had problems in the bureaucracy when we make multidisciplinary research”. Other issues mentioned included the incompleteness of local data, time limitation, and language.
How to overcome these challenges to do research?
We also asked these researchers how they think these challenges should be addressed. Responses vary and included suggestions for changes at the national level such as improving policies and bureaucracy, with one of them mentioned that, “The national health research and development agency should be more open to researchers from academic institutions”. The remaining responses focused on solutions at individual level, for instance better research plan, communication and collaboration. One researcher in particular advised to “be innovative and be creative”.
A lack of infrastructure and funding is still a major challenge in research in Indonesia and perhaps other low- to middle-income countries. This visit and workshop are only the beginning of a budding international collaboration to improve healthy ageing in Indonesia. In near future, both universities aim to collaborate in research projects and to maintain knowledge exchange in the field of healthy ageing. We will keep reporting how this collaboration progresses. If you are interested to take part, get in touch with us.