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British Society of Gerontology Comments on the World Health Organisation Consultation on the Draft Impact Framework: 13th General Programme of Work 2019-2023

Posted:  11 December 2017
Summary:  The British Society of Gerontology (BSG) has welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the World Health Organisation Consultation on the Draft Impact Framework: 13th General Programme of Work 2019-2023 (GPW 13).

BSG President Prof Debora Price said, "the weight of responses calling for greater focus on ageing was such that the WHO has responded by including a global target for the first time to reduce the number 65+ who are care dependent by 15 million". Our thanks go to Dr Gemma Carney who led the response.

Please see below for the full contribution made by BSG.

Submission from the British Society of Gerontology to the World Health Organization on Draft Impact Framework: 13th General Programme of Work

The British Society of Gerontology recognises the key role of the World Health Organization in leading the formulation of coherent policy responses to global challenges, in setting targets and in achieving goals. We strongly recommend that the WHO make specific reference to the ageing of the world’s population under its mission, specific targets and strategic aims of its General Programme of Work 2019-2023. The recognition of ageing is vital given that by 2050 it is expected that the ageing populations of the Global North will be joined by Asia, Oceania, Central and South America, Caribbean and parts of Africa, which are rapidly ageing (United Nations, 2013; WHO, 2015).

Population ageing involves a dynamic shift in the health and generational balance of the world’s population. As societies move from a demographic regime of high fertility and high mortality to one of extended life expectancy and fewer births we see a change in the nature of illness and disease. The era of longevity means that while people live longer, non-communicable, chronic illness becomes the norm. One example is in the area of mental health, where the on-going increase in the prevalence of cognitive impairment in later life must be considered when setting priorities for research and service interventions. Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages must include a target to reduce incidences of age-related non-communicable diseases.

A life-course perspective that recognises the unique complexity of old age is needed. The WHO’s programme of work would be future-proofed if it took account of how the deprivation of childhood impacts across the life course, through mid-life and into old age. As such, specific targets to provide educational opportunities for older people are necessary under Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Another key dynamic of population change is the intersection of ageing and gender inequality. Women are the majority of the 85+ age group – the group most likely to need additional healthcare. Gender issues around fertility, child deprivation and access to education must be linked to this new demographic regime. Gender equality should be a goal for women beyond child-bearing age, as such the empowerment of older women should be an explicit element of Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Finally, the British Society of Gerontology recommends that the WHO continue to offer support to the Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, which has now been adopted in over 500 cities and communities around the globe. This initiative has played a central role in bringing the issue of population ageing to the attention of planners, policy-makers and citizens. The Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities also plays an important role in protecting older people from the pressures of urban development across the Global North and South. The importance of ageing as a key element of global population change underlines its centrality in developing and monitoring new targets in health care policy. For these reasons, it is vital that the WHO does not omit older people, population ageing or healthy ageing from its general programme of work 2019-2023.

Professor Debora Price (President) on behalf of the National Executive of the British Society of Gerontology.

More information on the British Society of Gerontology is available at www.britishgerontology.org