World Health Day 2014: Life expectancy decreasing or static for 76 million people – Age Demands Action on universal healthcare

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World Health Day 2014: Life expectancy decreasing or static for 76 million people – Age Demands Action on universal healthcare

76 million older people around the world are being excluded from vital healthcare, with life expectancy at 60 decreasing or static in 38 out of 194 countries, says HelpAge International’s campaigning network Age Demands Action on World Health Day (7 April).

“The results show the urgent need for universal healthcare for older people and the extent to which their healthcare needs are being neglected,” said Mark Gorman of HelpAge International.

As part of an international drive, Age Demands Action will see older people mobilising, meeting Health Ministers and running media campaigns to demand universal access to healthcare for older people in at least forty countries on World Health Day (7 April).

Progress has been made to improve life expectancy globally but the gains made exclude 76.8 million people aged 60 and over - close to 10% of the global population of older people across 194 countries.

Using WHO data, results reveal average life expectancy at birth has increased by six years but life expectancy at 60 has increased by only two years between 1990 and 2011 across the same countries.

In 38 countries, life expectancy at 60 has been static or fallen, ranging from "young" countries like Gambia, Senegal, Tajikistan where the share of people aged 60 and over is 3.6. 4.4 and 4.8 per cent of the population to ‘older’ countries such as Belarus, Serbia and Ukraine where the proportion of people aged 60 and over is 19.3, 20.8 and 21.1 percent of total population.

“The populations within many of these ‘young’ countries will become old, in time, so there is a real chance now to provide universal access to health care and improve outcomes in later life,” said Mark Gorman.

“While in ‘older’ countries, ageing is a vital issue now. Governments need to provide access to primary healthcare where illnesses like diabetes can be managed, access to essential medicines provided and ensure that trained health care workers are able to respond to the needs of older people,” he added.

New research published today by HelpAge International shows that health systems can change and that ensuring older people are included in community healthcare is vital to them maintaining a good quality of life.

The two-year pilot project* undertaken in Cambodia, Mozambique, Peru and Tanzania shows that developing community healthcare services that respond to ageing, can improve access, affordability and identify critical points for prevention.

Dr Jorge Ancajima, working on the project in Peru said: “We are teaching older people and others that the risk of certain chronic diseases can be reduced and that there are treatments to prevent more serious complications.”

Ludmila Deysi Mendoza Burnet, the nurse in charge of the project at Centro de Salud Materno Infantil de Castilla, in Peru, where the older people’s self-help club meets, said:

“Before our involvement in this project we mainly provided therapeutic care to older people.

“Today, through senior clubs, not only do we provide this but we’re increasingly focusing on delivering education and preventative activities.”

As part of this year’s Age Demands Action campaign, older people in Kyrgyzstan, where 6% of the population are older but longevity at 60+ is in decline, will be raising the issue of the cost of medicines and the standard of health care in general practice when they meet Ministers of Health and Social Development. While in Sri Lanka, where 12% of the population are older but longevity at 60+ is static, older people will be facilitating a forum with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Social Services to run collaborative programmes addressing their health needs.

* More details about HelpAge International’s new research: Why health systems must change: Addressing the needs of ageing populations in low and middle income countries.

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors:

1. Age Demands Action is a global grassroots campaign supported by HelpAge International and led by activists who challenge age discrimination and fight for the rights of older people.

Today’s activities give older people an opportunity to engage with government officials, raise their voices and stand united for improved health access and treatment across the globe.

See HelpAge’s website for details of country campaigns by Age Demands Action on Health: http://www.helpage.org/get-involved/campaigns/age-demands-action-on-health/

The following 40 countries are taking part in this year’s Age Demands Action on Health: Albania, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cameroon, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Ghana, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, St Vincent, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

2. Data sources:

Life expectancy at birth both sexes, 1990 and 2011. WHO Global Health Observatory Data Repository (http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.687?lang=en)

Life expectancy at age 60 both sexes, 1990 and 2011. WHO Global Health Observatory Data Repository (http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.687?lang=en)

Percentage of population aged 60 and over, 2013. World Population Ageing 2013, Table A.III.4. Country ranking by percentage of population aged 60 years or over, 2013. UNDESA (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/ageing/WorldPopula tionAgeingReport2013.shtml)

The 38 countries where life expectancy at 60 is decreasing or static include Belarus, Belize, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, DRC, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Georgia, Guyana, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Mexico, Micronesia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nicaragua, Oman, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, TFYR Macedonia, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

WHO’s definition of "universal healthcare":

  • A strong, efficient, well-run health system that meets priority health needs through people-centred integrated care;
  • Affordability;
  • Access to essential medicines and technologies;
  • A sufficient capacity of well-trained, motivated health workers.
  • Universal health coverage is crucial to addressing critical health challenges and maximising healthy life expectancy at all stages of life, which is why a call for universal health coverage needs to be part of the post-2015 agenda. http://www.who.int/universal_health_coverage/en/
  • World Health Day, on 7 April, celebrates the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948.

3. HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives.

Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations – the only one of its kind in the world. Visit www.helpage.org

For more country analysis on ageing see: HelpAge’s Global AgeWatch Index 2013 http://www.helpage.org/global-agewatch/?gclid=CK3t-s_irb0CFTTItAodjxwA_g 4

For further information please contact: Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager at HelpAge International’s office in London on +44 (0) 20 7148 7623 mobile: +44 (0) 7713 567624 or email sarah.gillam@helpage.org

Press release also available in French.

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