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Universal Health Coverage for All Ages: An Agenda for Action

The world is ageing as people live longer than ever before. Despite this, healthcare systems are not meeting the basic needs of older people. 

Age International's new report makes the case for healthcare which is genuinely inclusive of older people, reaching them in their community. 

Read the report

'Universal Health Coverage for All Ages: An Agenda for Action' makes the case for age-inclusive health systems strengthening, with evidence and recommendations for UK international development. The report draws on evidence and experience from our work in areas such as access to healthcare, addressing chronic diseases and humanitarian response.

Age International Response to the 2023 High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage

On 21 September 2023, Heads of State, policy makers and civil society gathered together at the United Nations in New York for the High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This meeting set an agenda for world governments and other stakeholders to work towards achieving health systems that meet the needs of all people.

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We must invest in older people's health

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension are now the leading cause of death and disability in low and middle-income countries. These conditions, known as 'non-communicable diseases', disproportionately affect older people.

Despite this, healthcare investment and policy have neglected the issue in favour of infectious diseases. Older people are often excluded from the health data that policymakers rely on to make decisions. Health services aren't sufficiently equipped to meet their needs, and older people’s health is missing from mainstream medical training. On top of this, for older people living in poverty the cost of transport, attending a doctor or buying basic medicines is unaffordable.

By bringing healthcare education and services into the community, for example through Older People’s Associations, those most in need of health support can access it. Health and care workers trained in older people’s health can provide better and more cost-effective healthcare. And by better treating and preventing chronic diseases, older people can continue to carry out the many varied roles and responsibilities they hold in their communities.

Blue and yellow graphic, with text: By 2030, people over 60 will outnumber young people

Plum, blue and yellow graphic with text: By 2050, 1 in 5 people in low and middle-income countries will be over 60

Blue and yellow graphic: people with chronic diseases make up 74% of all deaths globally

Better health for older people in Kenya

The report highlights the experiences of older people we've supported with our partners in Kenya through the Better Health for Older People in Africa programme.

The Older People's Associations established in Kenya help health workers, volunteers and older people alike better understand the rights and needs of older people and promote healthy living in later life. Read their stories.

Case studies: Older People’s Associations, Africa (621 KB)

Photo of an older woman in a green dress stood next to a chicken coop. Text: "From the groups, older people have known that we have rights. A lot more rights than we thought"

Jacinta, 68

Older man seated smiling as he reads a newspaper. Text: "We go there and get  educated on a lot of things about our health and I come out of there healthy."

Joseph, 71

Older woman in a red tunic and blue headscarf. Text: "We didn't know we could go out and share the problems of older people in the community with hospitals and be listened to. "

Felista, 61

Why must we act now? 

Older people’s health is integral to the delivery of the UK's global health objectives. The UK Government has expressed its commitment to health coverage for everyone, but 'universal health coverage' is not universal if it does not respond to the health needs of people of all ages. The UK is also signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals, a global agreement to eradicate extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and 'leave no one behind' - including to 'ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages'. 

For the UK to meet its commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, its global health work must be inclusive to older people - and investing in primary healthcare is key to achieving this. 

Better health is one of the greatest achievements and greatest challenges facing us as a society. Nowhere is this more true than in low and middle income countries.

For us at Age International, it is clear: investing in healthy ageing is an investment in the whole of society, and achieving universal health coverage is not possible without it.

Ann Keeling | Chair, Age International and Foreword Author


How can we move closer to achieving truly inclusive universal health coverage? This is what we have learned from our work and the work of other leading organisations:  

  • Primary health care is key to achieving universal health coverage
  • Acting on non-communicable diseases across the life course strengthens health systems
  • Health worker training and knowledge does not include older people’s health
  • Healthcare cannot be delivered equitably if data is not inclusive and comprehensive of older people’s health needs
  • The mental health needs of older people are neglected
  • Long-term care and support: health systems need to adapt to the realities of longer lifespans
  • Older people face additional health risks in humanitarian crises, and investment is needed to make humanitarian responses age-inclusive
  • Achieving universal health coverage goes hand-in-hand with age-inclusive climate policy


Read more

Check out the report for more detail on our lessons and recommendations for achieving universal health coverage. Download and read the report or executive summary today.

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