More than one billion people will be over 60 years old by 2025

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More than one billion people will be over 60 years old by 2025 and, as populations age, the burden of chronic diseases will increase.

To help tackle the public health implications of ageing, the World Health Organization today launched Towards Age-Friendly Primary Health Care, new general principles that will serve as guidelines for community-based Primary Health Care (PHC) centres.

Released during the International Federation on Ageing's Seventh Global Conference on Ageing in Singapore, the principles are based on qualitative research in five countries, both developing and developed, and address three critical areas where more leadership, training and better information are needed if the PHC centres are to meet the challenge of older people's needs. These are:

  • Information, education, communication and training for PHC providers,
  • PHC management systems,
  • The physical environment of PHC centres.

Today, there are 600 million people in the world aged 60 years and over. This figure is expected to double by 2025 and to reach 2 billion by 2050, the vast majority in the developing world. Population ageing is characteristically accompanied by an increase in the burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and other ageing-associated mental health conditions, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and musculoskeletal problems. As a consequence, pressure on health systems worldwide will increase.

Early detection, appropriate intervention, management and follow-up of chronic conditions take place mainly at the PHC level. Older people already account for a sizeable proportion of PHC centre patients and as populations age and chronic disease rates climb, that proportion is expected to increase. PHC centres are ideally positioned to provide the regular and extended contacts and on-going care that older persons need at community-based level.

"WHO has recognized the critical role PHC centres play in the health of older people worldwide and the need for these centres to be accessible and adapted to the needs of the older population", says Dr Catherine Le Galès-Camus, Assistant Director-General, Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. "Supporting older people to remain healthy and ensure a good quality of life in their later years is one of the greatest challenges of the health sector in all countries".

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