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'Urgent action needed to improve palliative care for older people’ - Joint statement from the world’s leading palliative care organisations 

LONDON, UK – This World Health Day 2012 (7 April), hospice and palliative care leaders from around the world have come together to draw attention to the rights of older people to quality hospice and palliative care.

The group of 20 organisations are calling for urgent action to make sure older people receive appropriate care, support and treatment, which recognises their contribution to society and is tailored to their individual needs throughout the course of illnesses, including at the end of life. 

Populations are ageing with increasing numbers of people around the globe living into old age. Increasingly, older people are living with and dying from multiple, chronic debilitating conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and HIV/AIDS.

Within the next five years, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of five 1 . Non-communicable diseases are already accounting for 60% of global deaths 2 , and this is set to rise. UNAIDS projections indicate that by 2015 more than 50% of people living with HIV in the developing world will be aged 50 years and over 3 .

Hospice and palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for older people living with life-threatening illnesses and their families and carers by addressing their physical, psychological, social, legal and spiritual problems.

Shockingly 42% of countries do not have any palliative care services and 80% of people globally lack adequate access to pain medication 4 . Palliative care is a human right, but there are still millions of older people, especially in the developing world, living and dying in pain and distress every year.  And yet we have the knowledge and skills to improve the quality of life of older people through the delivery of affordable, quality palliative care services.

Together, the 20 organisations are calling for urgent action to ensure:

·        the inclusion of older people in the decision making around their care options, including at the end of life

·        existing health policies address the unique palliative care needs of older people

·        universal access to hospice and palliative care for older people living with, and dying from, life-limiting conditions including non-communicable diseases

·        access to, and availability of, pain medications, including oral opioids, for older people worldwide

·        adequate support, training, supplies and equipment so that health professionals and carers can provide palliative care for older people in the community, in inpatient facilities and in people’s own homes

·        the advocacy agenda on active ageing ensures compassionate and dignified care for older people with life-limiting illnesses, including when they are at their most vulnerable and approaching the end of life.

On World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, 13 October 2012, palliative care organisations around the world will be highlighting the importance of palliative care for an ageing population through a unified day of action. For more information visit: www.worldday.org


Notes to editors


International and pan-national organisations

Cynthia Goh, Chair, Asia-Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network

David Praill, Co-chair, Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance and CEO, Help the Hospices (UK)

Jim Cleary, Director, Pain and Policy Studies Group, University of Wisconsin (USA)

Faith Mwangi-Powell, Executive Director, African Palliative Care Association

Liliana de Lima, Executive Director, International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care

Maria Berenguel, President, Asociación Latinoamericana de Cuidados Paliativos

Sheila Payne, President, European Association of Palliative Care


Olivia Dix, Director, The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund’s Palliative Care Initiative

Mary Callaway, Director, International Palliative Care Initiative, Open Society Foundation

National and other hospice and palliative care organisations

Anil Paleri, Secretary, Indian Association of Palliative Care

Donald Schumacher, President & CEO, National Hospice Palliative Care Organization (USA)

Elias Johansen Muganyizi, Executive Director, Tanzania Palliative Care Association

Eve Richardson, CEO, National Council for Palliative Care & Dying Matters (UK)

Liz Gwyther, CEO, Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa

Mary Schumacher, CEO, Hospice New Zealand

M R Rajagopal, Chairman, Pallium India

Sharon Baxter, Executive Director, Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association

Tsigerada Yisfawossen, Executive Director, Hospice Ethiopia

Yvonne Luxford, CEO, Palliative Care Australia

Zipporah Ali, Executive Director, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association


1. WHO http://www.who.int/world-health-day/2012/toolkit/background/en/index.html (accessed 5 April 2012)

2. NCD Alliance http://www.ncdalliance.org/globalepidemic (accessed 5 April 2012)

3. UNAIDS, (2009) HIV/AIDS statistics

4. World Hospice and Palliative Care Day http://www.worldday.org/news/mapping-report-2011/ (accessed 5 April 2012)

About World Health Day 2012:

Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected for World Health Day that highlights a priority area of concern for WHO.

This year’s theme is Ageing and health: Good health adds life to years. For more information visit www.who.int/world-health-day

Media enquires:

Please contact Zoe Grumbridge in the Help the Hospices press office (UK) on +44(0)7881 940318 or email z.grumbridge@helpthehospices.org.uk