National policy experts call for bold action for healthy ageing in the Region
National policy experts on healthy ageing have called for bold action to promote healthy ageing and to invest in a future where all older people have the freedom to live an active and healthy life that allows them to continue doing what they value. The call was made during a meeting held on 26–27 February 2019 in Moscow, Russian Federation, where participants from more than 30 countries of the WHO European Region came together to take stock of the policies and strategies across the Region.
A world for all ages
WHO supports countries in leading the way towards a world for all ages. In the next 10 years, healthy ageing will be high on the global health agenda, with plans to launch a Decade of Healthy Ageing from 2020 to 2030.
The population in the Region is ageing rapidly. By 2050, 27% of the population of the WHO European Region is expected to be 65 years and older. The Region is facing health issues commonly affecting older people such as multiple chronic conditions, mental and cognitive disorders, injuries and violence. In addition, ageist stereotypes are still widespread. To tackle these challenges, a vast majority of countries in Europe have been mainstreaming healthy ageing in their national policies and strategies.
“Despite different environments and challenges, we can see the shifting paradigm of ageing away from older age dependence to contribution,” Islene Araujo de Carvalho, Senior Policy and Strategy Adviser, WHO Ageing and Life Course.
Integrated care key for older people
During the meeting, participants discussed an integrated care approach and agreed on priority action areas in this field. Strengthening health systems by making them more person-centred and less fragmented is key to responding to the needs of older people. The WHO Guidelines on Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE) propose evidence-based recommendations for health care professionals that require countries to place the needs and preferences of older adults at the centre and to coordinate care.
Integrated care services: the experience of North Macedonia
Healthy ageing cannot be achieved without the involvement of all sectors, especially health and welfare authorities that work together to ensure that nobody is left behind. The government of North Macedonia has piloted integrated care services in two municipalities of Kočani and Resen, synergizing efforts of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, local authorities, health centres and UN agencies. The pilot programme builds on services already provided by nurses predominantly working with mothers and children by expanding the services existing in the community with an additional nurse, social worker, physiotherapist and caregivers to address the needs of older people. The integrated care provided in North Macedonia encourages health promotion by addressing NCD risk factors such as smoking, malnutrition and alcohol abuse; offering screening for hypertension, diabetes, depression; supporting management of health conditions and improving treatment adherence; measuring performance in activities in daily living; providing pressure sore prevention and treatment, as well as screening for domestic and gender-based violence and other social risks. Special mobile teams complement GPs with outreach activities and work in communities, visiting older people’s homes. The teams communicate with the relevant GPs and follow up on referrals to ensure that the patients went to see the doctor.
Networks in cities and communities are an integral part of promoting universal health coverage (UHC) and healthy ageing. The Russian Association of Healthy Cities, Districts and Villages, a member of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network, is a rapidly growing network that strengthens pro-health policies at the local level and promotes and informs various health agendas, including healthy ageing. At the meeting, the Association highlighted successful practices from Russian cities whose residents enjoy active ageing through lifelong learning, travel, volunteering, work opportunities, and physical activity.