WHO Global Forum on Innovations for Ageing Populations
Report of the forum, 10-12 December 2013, Kobe, Japan
In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the Global Forum on Innovation for Ageing Populations as an information exchange platform for diverse stakeholders to address the challenge of meeting the needs of older people in low resource settings with frugal innovations. The Global Forum brought together more than 170 expert participants from 21 countries for 3 days of rich discussion and debate, in order to meet the following objectives: exchange information, views and lessons from key operations and health systems research concerning technological and social innovations for ageing populations; highlight findings and solutions through specific examples of successful, scaled-up innovations; and identify key future priorities for WHO and its partners in support of innovations for ageing populations. The Report provides a synthesis of the presentations, debates, and conclusions of the Global Forum on Innovation for Ageing Populations.
The Global Forum introduced the first opportunity to link and discuss new evidence of the ageing phenomenon together with the latest social and technological innovations in cost-effective, scalable solutions. The evidence was derived from a wide range of sectors and stakeholders with a common concern for the health and welfare of older adults, especially in lower resourced settings and countries. When woven together, the data presented conveyed several key trends underpinning the pressing need for innovations. First, that the LMICs will soon have large populations of older adults, and will face the double burden of infectious and parasitic disease as well as NCD at scale. Secondly, evidence points to a widening gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, due at least in part to lengthening of human life while the burden of disease and disability is growing, and affecting people at younger ages. Functional and cognitive decline will increase. Many of the resulting disabilities and morbidities are often preventable or at least delayed by accessing pre-ventive care, which strongly advocates for universal health coverage, a life course approach to health, and education. The impacts of ageing on health systems financing, and on the greater economy of these societies, can be structurally disruptive in terms of the adjustments required to meet changing needs, but are far from being catastrophic or insurmountable.
The Global Forum effectively created a platform to share information, debate and drive new thinking about the current and emerging health and social challenges for ageing populations in low resource settings, as well as about developing, adapting and empowering innovations to meet these challenges. However, much work remains to be done. Few innovations have been designed specifically for this target demographic, just as few are uniformly affordable, accessible, acceptable or sustainable in these contexts. WHO will continue to facilitate access to the most up-to-date demographic, health and economic evidence for innovators, implementers and policy-makers. WKC is currently contributing to advancing research in the areas of assistive and medical devices needs and preferences for elderly, social innovations in models of care for elderly and medication adherence innovations for ageing populations.