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.
'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.
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.
The UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage was particularly important for women and girls, who often struggle to healthcare services and experience challenges in getting timely diagnosis and treatment.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.