Home From The Sidelines WHO South-East Asia Discuss Strategies for Healthy Ageing

WHO South-East Asia Discuss Strategies for Healthy Ageing

Officials and experts from the ministries of social welfare, health, and empowerment from the WHO (World Health Organisation) South-East Asia Region member countries met at a three-day conference in New Delhi from 11-13 June 2024. The objective of the meeting was to discuss a regional strategy for healthy ageing and measures to improve care and health services for older adults.

According to Ms. Saima Wazed, Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, 12.6% of the region is 60 and above. She says this number will increase to 14% by 2030 and 26.3% by 2050. Although managing this demographic shift will produce challenges, it also provides an opportunity to manage the situation. Highlighting the importance of older people in the country’s economic workforce, Ms. Saima elaborated that healthier older people can contribute to the economy through various means. Moreover, they can pass their wisdom and experience to the younger generations.

The United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021–2030) is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Under this matrix, countries have been trying to foster healthier and longer lives. Ms. Saima added that this decade’s objective is to combat ageism, provide integrated care (ICOPE), create age-friendly environments, and ensure access to long-term care.

The Regional Director noted that there has been significant progress in strategies and legislation to combat age-based discrimination since 2020. The main challenge today is resource constraint, which indicates increased commitment and investment. Ms. Saima gave an open call to promote interpersonal learning and explore collaborative strategies to catalyse the implementation of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021-2030 implementation.

The meeting focussed on system strengthening, which would, in turn, lead to the deliverance of responsive and person-centred primary health services to older persons. Further, it aims to strengthen and sustain the health system’s capacity to deliver integrated care and health services to them.

At the meeting, the experts and officials developed a blueprint highlighting an evidence-based regional strategy for healthy ageing. In years to come, the WHO and its member countries can collaborate on this blueprint per the WHO South-East Asia Regional Roadmap for Results and Resilience (2024-2029), endorsed by member countries in May 2024.

The WHO and member countries had developed the Regional Framework for Healthy Ageing (2018–2022) earlier to train healthcare providers in Integrated Care for Older People systematically.

The number of older people in the region is expected to rise to 480 million by 2050. Such a high number is indicative of the success of WHO. In the last thirty years, average life expectancy has increased by eight years, women have been empowered, and fertility rates reduced.