The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Good health is a vital individual asset. Similarly, a high overall level of health of the population is vital for economic growth and development of societies. The full benefits of healthy longevity have yet to be shared by all humanity, evidenced by the fact that entire countries, especially developing countries and certain population groups, still experience high rates of morbidity and mortality at all ages.

Older persons are fully entitled to have access to preventive and curative care, including rehabilitation and sexual health care. Full access for older persons to health care and services, which include disease prevention, involves recognition that health promotion and disease prevention activities throughout life need to focus on maintaining independence, the prevention and delay of disease and disability treatment, as well as on improving the quality of life of older persons who already have disabilities. The health care and services need to include the necessary training of personnel and facilities to meet the special needs of the older population.

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. To reach old age in good health and well-being requires individual efforts throughout life and an environment within which such efforts can succeed. The responsibility of individuals is to maintain a healthy lifestyle; the responsibility of Government is to create a supportive environment that enables the advancement of health and wellbeing into old age. For both humanitarian and economic reasons, it is necessary to provide older persons with the same access to preventive and curative care and rehabilitation as other groups. At the same time, health services designed to meet the special needs of the older population must be available, taking into account the introduction of geriatric medicine in relevant university curricula and health-care systems...there are other important actors, in particular non-governmental organizations and families, which provide support for individuals in maintaining a healthy lifestyle while cooperating closely with Governments in creating a supportive environment...

The growing need for care and treatment of an ageing population requires adequate policies. The absence of such policies can cause major cost increases. Policies that promote lifelong health, including health promotion and disease prevention, assistive technology, rehabilitative care when indicated, mental health services, promotion of healthy lifestyles and supportive environments, can reduce disability levels associated with old age and effect budgetary savings...

Health promotion encourages persons to monitor and improve their own health. The basic strategies for health promotion were laid down in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986). Goals of increasing the healthy lifespan, improving the quality of life for all, reducing mortality and morbidity rates and increasing life expectancy were set at the International Conference on Population and Development (1994). These goals can be more effectively achieved through implementation of actions recommended by the WHO to improve both public health and access to adequate health care.

Health promotion activities and equal access of older persons to health care and services that include disease prevention throughout life is the cornerstone of healthy ageing. A life course perspective involves recognizing that health promotion and disease prevention activities need to focus on maintaining independence, prevention and delay of disease and disability, and providing treatment, as well as on improving the functioning and quality of life of older persons who already have disabilities...

Health is strongly influenced by environmental, economic and social determinants, including the physical environment, geography, education, occupation, income, social status, social support, culture and gender. Improvements in the economic and social situation of older persons will result in improvements in their health as well. Despite improvements in legislation and service delivery, equal opportunities for women through the life course are still not realized in many areas. For women, a life course approach to well-being in old age is particularly important, as they face obstacles throughout life with a cumulative effect on their social, economic, physical and psychological well-being in later years

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