Getting ageing and Alzheimer's included in UN Summit on NCDs


By Caroline Graham

HelpAge has joined forces with partners in the UK to get ageing and Alzheimer’s disease included in a UN summit on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

The September summit is the first high level meeting on NCDs but its focus "glaringly omits ageing, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias," HelpAge says in a joint statement with partners, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) and International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK).

An older person is examined by their doctor. The rights of people over 60 should be included in the UN Summit on NCDs Peter Caton/HelpAge International

"Despite the prevalence of NCDs and Alzheimers in older age, we are concerned the current focus on younger age groups may be at the expense of older people for the Summit," said Mark Gorman, HelpAge’s Strategic Development Adviser.

On Tuesday, HelpAge, ADI and ILC-UK, hosted a lunch at the House of Lords in London for expert, high-level stakeholders anxious to get ageing and dementia included in the UN Summit.

NCD summit focuses on under 60s

At present, the focus of the summit in New York is on treatment, management and reduction of “premature death” of those under 60.

It will look at how to tackle four prominent Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) – cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – and the common risk factors of tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and environmental carcinogens.

Globally, two in three deaths each year are attributable to NCDs.

Though commonly thought of as “diseases of affluence”, risks from NCDs are often greatest in poor and deprived communities. Four-fifths of deaths from NCDs are in low- and middle-income countries.

Older people in developing countries are particularly at risk. Two-thirds of deaths from NCDs are in people over 60, of whom 77 per cent are in developing countries.

And according to ADI’s The World Alzheimer Report 2010, cases of dementia are expected to double to 65.7 million by 2030.

Challenge "discriminatory" language

“It is unacceptable the summit should not consider older people,” says Mark Gorman.

“Support to people over 60, as well as those who are younger, should be prioritised.

“Sidelining older people will limit the outcome of the summit and further compromise older people’s right to health.

"The preparatory and outcome documents should remove discriminatory language such as ‘premature death’.

“A whole life-course approach to prevention, treatment, management and care should be taken. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias should be recognised as priority NCDs.”

Jane Scobie, HelpAge's Director of Advocacy and Communications, added: "Currently the UN summit is focused on preventing deaths of productive workers who are defined as people under 59. This is plainly discriminatory.

"Why should people over 60 be excluded from treatment given they are the largest group at risk?

"In 2004 people over 60 accounted for 75% of the 35 million deaths from NCDs worldwide in 2004. It is really important the summit outcome target people of all ages."

What we have achieved so far:

  • Recognition by NCD Alliance that older people should be visible in language of summit. The Alliance had previously said that NCDs were not diseases of "the elderly" despite the fact that 75% of deaths from NCDs occur in over 60s.
  • Mobilised supporters to write to UN calling for summit to be relevant to all ages.
  • Hosted a meeting on dementia and ageing with key UK policy makers.

What we will do next:

  • Present expert evidence at key events including World Health Assembly in the run up to the summit.
  • Prepare a report with recommendations for UK government delegation to the summit.

What you can do:

  • 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

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Comments submitted for this page

  • Dr. Asma Badar (07 May 2011)

    I would not be surprized to see an MDG++ after a few years, confessing the need of addressing older peoples' chronic health issues if they fail to integrate them in the coming UN Summit policy document. But it is wiser to act in time. And amazingly enough many of the decision makers would be an older person themselves, and attend the meeting after taking their medecines for hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, ischemic heart disease, etc. Older people have the right to live healthy.

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