August 17, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arnold School Associate Professor Daniela Friedman presented “Preserving Cognitive Health and Preventing Cognitive Impairment” at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2015 Healthy Aging Summit in D.C. last month. The two-day annual meeting focused on the science of healthy aging and engaged several hundred policy makers, healthcare providers, and public health professionals to explore ways to collaborate with stakeholders to improve the health of older adults. An expert in cognitive health promotion and health communication, the Department of Promotion, Education, and Behavior researcher was invited to co-lead the plenary session.
The panel, that included Friedman and four other academic thought leaders from universities across the county and the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on the Public Health Dimensions of Cognitive Aging, discussed new initiatives influencing public health approaches to reduce risk factors for cognitive impairment. Friedman highlighted key research findings on public perceptions related to cognitive aging and on the media’s presentation of aging, cognition, and Alzheimer’s disease. Her work was conducted as part of the CDC-funded South Carolina Healthy Aging Research Network and the more recently funded South Carolina Healthy Brain Research Network (S.C. HBRN).
Friedman’s interest in working with aging adults began when she was just a kid. “During childhood, I had a newspaper taped to the door of my room that discussed how so few people wanted to work with older adults or go into gerontology or geriatrics,” she says. “I wanted to be one of those few people to work with this population, encourage others to engage in this work and recognize healthy aging as an extremely important field, and help improve health-related information intended for older adults, their caregivers, and families.”
Friedman earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Psychology from McMaster University in Canada. She then completed Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Health Studies and Gerontology at the University of Waterloo, also in Canada.
“I ended up in public health because I was seeing time and time again that family members and friends had questions about or did not understand information they were receiving from the healthcare system,” Friedman says. “I was often pulled in to help 'translate' because people knew I was interested in health issues; I would bring the notepad and pen and I would ask the questions.”
After graduation, Friedman accepted a position at the Arnold School where she combines her interests in healthy aging with her passion for helping people understand health issues—specifically related to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to her School-level research and her work with the S.C. HBRN and other HBRN Centers across the country, Friedman has served as Chair of the American Public Health Association’s Aging and Public Health Section for the past two years. Right here in Columbia, Friedman is also working closely with The FriendShip, a new non-profit organization that is part of the national Village-to-Village Network, that will be offering programs and services to support members age 50 and over who wish—and are able—to age-in-place.
It is through these efforts that she is helping build interest and collaboration among individuals and organizations in working with aging populations. One such endeavor includes bringing graduate students into the S.C. HBRN through a Doctoral Scholars Program. “It is so important that future public health professionals learn about aging and understand what we can do to engage and communicate more effectively with older adults, their families, and caregivers,” she says. “These students also have the opportunity to contribute to the science on healthy aging and promote the role of prevention to improve our quality of life as we age.”