Ageing and life-course

What WHO is doing

30 March 2012

Health services

Strengthening primary health care

Quality, safety and access issues for primary care for older people, including the early detection and management of common conditions like hypertension and diabetes, are not well understood. WHO will work to identify strategies that can enhance existing efforts to strengthen health systems to make services more effective and more accessible for older people, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

For example, the focus of WHO's prevention of blindness programme will aim to provide technical capacity to countries to help them tackle age-related chronic eye disease such as cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age related macular degeneration and uncorrected presbyopia. The WHO programme for the prevention of deafness is supporting governments to develop comprehensive national plans for ear and hearing health. Age-related hearing issues need to be a central component of these plans.

Harnessing technology

Innovation and technology can help older people in many ways: to better monitor health status and detect early signs of disease; connect older people to health care; underpin new approaches; ensure better data collection and monitoring; create training opportunities for health workers and caregivers; develop new versions of diagnostic, monitoring and assistive devices; and to assist older people with functional loss to remain independent.

We need to encourage these developments, but also to remember that the majority of older people live in less developed countries. Fostering the development/adaptation and transfer of appropriate technology and innovative solutions to these settings can help us achieve health equity. A WHO steering group has been established to turn this vision into reality.

Building the skills for the 21st century health workforce

New curricula are needed to ensure that the global workforce has the appropriate skills to deal with the older populations that will form the bulk of their practice. WHO has undertaken an initial global review of medical curricula. This identified a number of possible approaches for making university training more relevant to the needs of older populations.

WHO will be looking to partner organizations to develop these further and provide guidance for universities in developing their curricula in a way that will most effectively meet the workforce needs of the 21st century.