(c) Dominika Kronsteiner/HelpAge International We live in an ageing world, in which better public health has resulted in longevity. By 2030, those over 60 will outnumber those under 15, with the fastest growth in the developing world.
However, this demographic change has led to an epidemiological transition. The predominance of infectious diseases is shifting to non communicable or chronic disease.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) include a range of chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, as well as Alzheimer's and other dementias.
They are commonly thought of as "diseases of affluence". But in reality, four-fifths of deaths from NCDs are in low- and middle-income countries and older people in developing countries are particularly at risk.
Progress at the UN Summit
Some progress in recognising the burden of NCDs on older people was made at the UN's September 2011 Summit on NCDs. The Political Declaration adopted at the UN General Assembly recognises ageing as one of the key factors in the rising prevalence of NCDs and that NCDs affect people at every age. The Declaration also replaces the discriminatory term "premature mortality" with "preventable morbidity" and includes Alzheimer's disease as a named NCD for the first time. These were all points that HelpAge had targeted for inclusion in the Summit document.
No age limit to health
We are still working to convince the World Health Organisation not to set age limits on their targets and indicators for measuring progress on NCDs.
What we want:
- All people, regardless of their age, to be included in strategies on detection and diagnosis, prevention, management and treatment.
- The use of discriminatory language and concepts relating to older age in the NCDs debate to be challenged.
- Strategies against NCDs to recognise that including older people in prevention, promotion, management and care strategies will substantially reduce the health costs arising from rapidly ageing populations.
- Diseases prevalent in old age, ranging from blindness to Alzheimer's disease and other dementias to be urgently addressed.
- Governments to ensure the right of older people to primary health care offering prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as home and institutional care services.
What we have achieved so far:
- Convinced NCD Alliance that older people should be visible in language of the NCD 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. The Alliance's proposed text for the summit outcomes document now includes references to ageing and care.
- Joined forces with partners across the globe to call for ageing, caregiving and Alzheimer's disease to be included by UN Member states in the UN summit.
- Mobilised supporters to write to the UN and call for the post-summit action by governments to be relevant to all ages.
- In May 2011, HelpAge global ambassador Baroness Sally Greengross hosted a meeting with Alzheimer's International and International Longevity Centre UK, on dementia and ageing with key UK policy makers. A report is available on the ILC website Non-Communicable Diseases in an Ageing World and has been submitted to the UK delegation.
What we will do next:
- HelpAge Affiliates and partners will visit their national governments with proposals for text changes to the draft summit document so that it includes ageing, caregiving and Alzheimer's disease.