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Non-Communicable Diseases: UN High Level Meeting must address all age groups

19 Sep 2011

Despite the prevalence of non-communicable diseases and Alzheimer's in older age, we are concerned that the UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) does not focus on younger age groups at the expense of older people.

It is important that the outcomes of the summit reach all age groups and take special note that two-thirds of those affected by NCDs are over 60, with a growing number in the developing world.

This is why diagnosis, treatment, care and support for people over 60 should be just as important as for those younger age groups who are at risk of NCDs because of lifestyle and other factors.

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Given the growth of NCDs in the older age group, sidelining older people makes no sense as it will limit the outcome of the summit, compromise development achievements and constitute a violation of older people's right to health.

We are pleased that in the run-up to the summit there has been progress towards the idea of a whole life-course approach to prevention, treatment, management and care, as well as acceptance that Alzheimer's disease and other dementias should be recognised as priority NCDs. These issues are now reflected in the draft political statement for the Summit.

Nevertheless it is important that the final document is clear on these questions.

I am at the UN NCDs summit, together with our global ambassador Alex Kalache, to make these points in collaboration with others including Alzheimer's Disease International, AARP and the World Palliative Care Alliance, as well as the NCD Alliance.

And we will be working with our partners on the development of age-inclusive targets and ensure the removal of discriminatory language such as "premature death".

With older people so clearly at risk from non communicable diseases, designing quality healthcare, available for the course of an entire lifetime - inclusive of older age - must be an essential element of a successful non communicable disease strategy.

What you can do

  • We are asking all our supporters, Affiliates and partners to raise these issues with their government representatives at the summit.
  • Do you think older people in your country face discrimination in getting treatment for cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and dementia? We'd love to hear from you - leave us a comment below or post on our Facebook page.
  • Keep up to date on how our campaign is going by signing up for our eNewsletter.

Your comments

Dr. Asma Badar

I appreciate the way you have been taking forward the old age NCD perspective. Whole life course approach for tackling NCDs is the option. Non-modifiable risk factors would bring more and more NCD patients inspite of all the preventive efforts and many will end up living a non-healthy life in the later years and occupy most of the tertiary care beds leading to catastrophic health expenditures, either governments paying for that or paying themselves out of pocket. it is better to realize the fact now.......otherwise we predict a revised version of MDGs in the coming years. So Wake up guys!

Mark Gorman

The life-cycle approach is mentioned in the Political Statement coming from the UN Summit. However the heavy emphasis on prevention risks excluding those (mainly older people) already living with chronic illness, often with more than one NCD (and even the double burden of NCDs with communicable disease - think of those with hypertension AND TB for example). We will need to keep up the pressure for inclusion of older people.

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Author profile

Mark Gorman
Country: U.K
Job title: Director of Strategic Development

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.