The Institute for Health & Aging (IHA) is the University of California's first campus-wide organized research unit (ORU) devoted to the study of health and aging and is the only ORU in the School of Nursing (SON) at UCSF. Dr. Wendy Max has served as Director of IHA since June 2013. Since being established in 1985, IHA has been successful in obtaining $326 million extramural funding and establishing partnerships and collaborations within the university as well as with external groups, particularly with the State of California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Our research has had an impact in the broad areas of aging and health and in the health policy arena.

IHA’s mission: to optimize the health and aging of individuals, communities, and society through research, education and public service
in the social and behavioral sciences.



The Institute for Health & Aging at the School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, provides comprehensive education and training in aging, health policy, and health services research for pre- and post-doctoral scholars in a variety of social science disciplines.

Over the past 5 years, IHA faculty members have mentored 125 predoctoral students and postdoctoral researchers, and 9 visiting scholars.

The Institute for Health & Aging also has a scholarship program with four components. The Carroll L. Estes Critical Scholars Program provides support to graduate students studying aging, health, long-term care, and disability with particular attention to issues of social policy and social justice. The Estes Program in Law, Health and Aging, provides support to law and social science grad students interested in issues related to law, health, and aging. The third component of the scholarship program is the Senior Scholar Program, named in honor of Maggie Kuhn, cofounder of the Gray Panthers, and Tish Sommers, cofounder and president of OWL, Older Women’s League. This program provides support to distinguished older people who wish to spend time at UCSF working with our scholars on major issues related to aging in America. It may also support younger scholars with similar interests. The fourth program is the The Patrick Fox Scholarship Fund which was established in the Institute for Health & Aging (IHA) to support the research, teaching, and public service missions of IHA. The Fund honors the research, educational, and public service work of Dr. Patrick Fox. The Fund is for students in the medical sociology and nursing health policy programs in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The fund supports student research-related needs.


Dean David Vlahov celebrates the Institute for Health & Aging’s 30th Anniversary with Keynote Speaker Fernando Torres-Gil, Associate Director Julene Johnson, Director Wendy Max, and Policy Advisor Brooke Hollister. Photo by: Jay Sullivan, UCSF

The Institute for Health and Aging is one of the premier health and aging research units in the world, and our research is recognized nationally and internationally. IHA’s primary function is to bring together faculty and staff for the purpose of conducting innovative research in health and aging policy. Our research has had an important impact in the research and policy arena. We are nationally and internationally known for our work in several key areas:

  • Aging and chronic illness, where IHA researchers have conducted major studies of Alzheimer’s disease that helped the city and state to develop plans for addressing the needs of the population with this condition; conducted evaluation studies of new models of benefit expansion for older adults under Medicare including the Social Health Maintenance Organization (SHMO) demonstration project; generated detailed analyses of the impact of disability on individuals and their families, including a study that found that the savings from expanding home and community-based services in the Medicaid program were not as costly as initially suggested and led to policy changes; conducted the seminal study of the cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, including the value of unpaid care provided by family members; studied decision-making around the use of technology at the end of life; and studied the impact of longevity, economic insecurity, and the increased prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease as a “perfect storm” of factors that disproportionately impact older women.
  • Health promotion, including the work done by our Center for Healthy and Active Aging on “successful aging”, research on the use of music and the arts in maintaining health, research on public health nursing interventions for increasing the effectiveness of health behavior change in vulnerable populations, and the use of mHealth interventions for health promotion.
  • Women’s health, including the establishment of the National Center for Lesbian Health, factors affecting the provision of culturally appropriate LGBT health care, caregiving as a women’s health issue, and the use of reproductive technologies.
  • Economics of the health effects of tobacco, including estimating the healthcare costs of tobacco use in the US and internationally, and determining the amount and the distribution of the Master Settlement Agreement reached between the Attorneys General of 42 states and the tobacco industry in 1998 to reimburse the states for tobacco-related costs to the Medicaid program
  • Bioethics, a cross-cutting area of investigation that focuses on all aspects of genetic decision-making throughout the life course, and recently culminated in the establishment of the CT2G (Center for Transdisciplinary ELSI (ethical, legal, and social implications) Research in Translational Genomics) – a collaboration of UCSF, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and UC Hastings under the leadership of 2 IHA faculty with funding from the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute

Work of the Institute is conducted by individual researchers and through four research centers on the Laurel Heights campus, and through a research unit in Sacramento that carries out contract research for the State of California. Together, these sources have produced an extraordinary number and variety of respected, oftentimes seminal, research studies.



Over the years, the Institute’s programs of research, public service, and education have grown beyond the historical emphasis on aging and aging health policy. Our collaborative, multidisciplinary academic environment has attracted new faculty and has enabled the Institute to expand in new directions. Today, IHA faculty primarily conduct research, public service, and educational activities in these substantive areas: disease prevention and health promotion in the aging population; the organization, financing, and delivery of community-based and long-term care health services; healthy and active aging and the role of the arts in health; women's health; bioethics and genomics; health in diverse populations; health inequalities; disability; substance abuse; and health

Contact Us

Institute for Health & Aging
3333 California St. Suite 340
San Francisco, CA, 94118-0646
Phone 415/502-5200
Fax 415/502-5208