An appeal has been issued to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to increase the priority placed on the needs of older people in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic by leading academic experts on ageing and supported by HelpAge International.
In an open letter to the WHO and its member states, published in the British Medical Journal, they identified an “alarming oversight” by the WHO in failing to address the specific needs of the 98% of older people who do not live in long-term care facilities.
The majority of severe cases and deaths caused by COVID-19 are amongst the over 60s, but no guidance has been issued by the WHO for health care workers on how to work with older people. Nor has anything been produced advising older people and their families on how to manage infection risks, deal with symptoms and mitigate wider issues such as depression.
The group acknowledged the work done by the WHO, the most influential global organisation in guiding responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, in working round the clock to issue helpful guidance for technical experts and the general public. But they wanted more to be done for the specific needs of those who are most at risk from the virus.
“We cannot ignore the fact that the majority of those falling severely ill or dying as a result of COVID-19 are over 60 and the WHO must acknowledge and address the risks they face and what should be done to protect them,” said Justin Derbyshire, Chief Executive at HelpAge International.
“Member states must also ensure they prioritise the needs of older people in their own national responses and in their support for low- and middle-income countries.
“We very much respect the lead taken by the WHO in responding to this pandemic but it is now time to provide information aimed at older people and their specific care needs.”
The full text of the letter is below or can be found on the BMJ here:
Re: Covid-19: control measures must be equitable and inclusive – Open letter to World Health Organisation (and to Member States).