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Reuben Ng

2023–24 Singapore Harkness Fellow; Assistant Professor and Head of the Data Innovation Group, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; Lead Scientist, Lloyd’s Register Foundation Institute for the Public Understanding of Risk, National University of Singapore

Photo, Reuben Ng headshot

Placement: University of Pennsylvania

Mentor: Sarah Hope Kagan, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FGSA, AOCN, GCNS-BC, Professor of Gerontological Nursing and Lucy Walker Term Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Project: Advancing Health Equity for Older Adults: Combating Ageism and Reframing Aging

Reuben Ng, M.Sc., Ph.D., is a 2023–24 Singapore Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. He is the inaugural Singaporean fellow, and the first from Asia since the program started in 1925. A behavioral and data scientist, Ng spent 16 years in government, consulting, and research. In government, he was in the Prime Minister’s Office driving evidence-based policymaking through data analytics and Smart Nation strategies. In consulting, he co-built the advanced analytics practice, and implemented complex analytics capabilities across the health care value chain. In research, he is an expert in ageism, social gerontology, quantitative social sciences, and credited with creating innovative techniques to measure health narratives that are applied to strategic policy communications. Ng’s work has garnered international media coverage in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Washington Post, BBC, and CNN. He is the first Singaporean and Oxonian to win the International Fulbright Science and Technology Award and was ranked in the top 2 percent of scientists globally by Stanford in 2022. He earned a Ph.D. in Epidemiology and Public Health from Yale University, an M.Sc. in Management Research from the University of Oxford, and a B.Soc.Sci. (Hons.) from the National University of Singapore.

Project Overview: The world is nearing a major demographic shift. From 2015 to 2050, the proportion of the population over 60 years of age is forecast to grow from 12 percent to 22 percent. Enhancing the well-being of older adults can foster a third demographic dividend, where the roles and responsibilities of older adults create new forms of social capital that can solve unmet societal needs. Unfortunately, the realization of these benefits is being undermined by the perennial issue of ageism, where older adults are discriminated against based on age. Ageism also acts as a psychosocial stressor. Those who perceive being discriminated against for their age are more likely to develop mental and physical health conditions. Each year $63 billion is lost due to health costs attributable to ageism, and age discrimination in the workplace cost the economy $850 billion in 2018.

This research aims to address the public health issue of ageism by promoting health equity for older adults. To catalyze age advocacy and counteract ageism, this project will leverage big data approaches to uncover the historical underpinnings of ageism (e.g., medicalization of aging) and analyze multiple media platforms for contemporary narratives of aging. These insights will lay the groundwork for strategies to reframe aging and increase health equity for older adults around the world.