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WHO: Good Health Care for Older Persons Falling Short Globally

  • Lisa Schlein

Patients and their relatives play cards in a dilapidated service building at Yangjia Hospital in Wuyi County, Zhejiang Province, China, Oct. 19, 2015.

To mark the International Day of the Older Person, the World Health Organization is calling for a new, integrated approach to meet the health needs of an aging population.

By mid-century, the World Health Organization reports one in five people in the world will be aged 60 or older. As people age, it says they are likely to be afflicted with numerous health problems.

WHO Department of Aging and Life Course Director, John Beard, says older people probably will have more than one chronic disease at the same time. He says knowing how to treat these complex conditions is challenging.

“It has been demonstrated that integrated care that is already into a holistic system of the individual provides much better outcomes than just health services, which respond independently to a specific condition every time somebody presents with them. And, so one of the things we are trying to emphasize is the need to develop these systems of integrated care and chronic care,” he said.

Ed Kelley is Director of the Department of Service Delivery and Safety at WHO. He personally identifies with a health system that does not comprehensively assess the problems of older persons.

“If you take my own father, I have these parents we are dealing with — he is 90 years old, he takes 13 medications, he has got five doctors. None of them talk to each other. And, he is relatively healthy. That is a very typical situation for your average elderly person around the world,” he said.

The World Health Organization says the health of older people would improve if all ailments were taken into consideration when an individual seeks relief for one specific illness or disease. For example, chronic pain might be linked to an individual’s difficulties with hearing, seeing, walking or performing other activities.

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