WHO forecasts longer life expectancy in the Pacific
WHO forecasts ageing populations will put more pressure on already struggling health systems.
The World Health Organisation says life expectancy in the Pacific is set to increase by nearly four years in the next 20 years.
The UN body says life expectancy at age 60 is also on the rise, saying that in Solomon Islands in 2010, for example, a 60-year-old man could expect to live another 16 years, but that's expected to increase to 18 years by 2030.
The WHO's Coordinator for Equity and Social Determinants, Anjana Bhushan, spoke with Jenny Meyer about the implications for health care in the region.
ANJANA BHUSHAN: What we know for sure is that the speed of this transition is becoming faster and faster. So even for countries that have relatively youthful populations, this transition is going to be upon them in two or three or four decades. What we are urging countries is that they need to do two things. One is act strongly on the promotion and prevention side so that the enabling environments exist across the life course for people to live healthy lives and make healthy choices ... as they, so that they enter old age in as good health as possible. And at the same time we are urging countries to re-orient their health systems and their health programmes and their health services so that they can better meet the health needs of those who are already in the older age groups. Right now many health systems are not well designed to take the health needs of older people on board.
JENNY MEYER: So what do you see are the key factors that countries in the Pacific would really need to confront in their health care systems to ensure a reasonable quality of life, particularly at the end of life?
AB: I think that it is such a multi-faceted issue, that we need partnership between many stakeholders. Families have played a traditional role, communities are very strong, governments of course have a role to play, NGO's are there, so all stake holders need to be involved. For the health system in particular, we need services that are integrated. Which means that they provide care across the continuum of needs, right from promotion and prevention, to diagnosis and treatment, rehab for things like stroke survivors and all the way through to end of life care. So this kind of a continuum, requires an integration across levels of care and across types of care. Also we need health workers that have the competencies and skills to recognise and meet older peoples' needs. Financing is a big issue, for certain reasons health care costs are going up and with higher morbidity, higher health needs in this population group, the health costs or capital for this group will be higher and so countries need to look at whether their health financing mechanisms are adequate to meet these needs or not and how they can shore those up.
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