The noticeable rise in both absolute and relative terms in the population aged 60 years and over, expected in the decades to come, combined with the possibility of new generations reaching old age in worse conditions of health will bring steady growth in demand for health care, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in a report prepared with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in preparation for the Regional Intergovernmental Conference on Ageing, to take place in Santiago, Chile, from 19-21 November 2003.
At the meeting, representatives from most Latin American and Caribbean countries will approve a regional strategy to help those responsible for forming policy on ageing to consider the specific needs of this continent's older persons. The conference, which will follow up on agreements approved at the Second World Assembly on Ageing (Madrid, 2002), is being organized by the Government of Chile, ECLAC and the Interagency Group on Ageing.
The joint ECLAC - PAHO report indicates that some social and age-related inequities in access to satisfactory health care continue to plague older persons, despite significant progress in terms of reducing mortality and increasing their life expectancy and general health.
To avoid this increase in demand for primary health care causing serious problems, strategies and actions should be developed very quickly in at least four priority areas: suitable care should be made accessible, without discrimination; the supply of health care should be adjusted to the needs of older persons; long-term care policy should be developed; and systems for monitoring progress should be created.
As part of the 1 October 2003, International Day of Older Persons, ECLAC's Population Division will launch a new web site on November's regional conference.
Similarly, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has underlined the importance to this meeting of the International Plan of Action adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing, Madrid 2002, and makes two recommendations for the Plan's implementation: national capacity-building and mainstreaming of ageing into the developmental agenda. Annan also calls for bringing the invaluable attributes of older people "out of obscurity" and into step with other instruments of development, especially those that aim to achieve the UN's Millennium Objectives, the organization's blueprint for building a better world in the 21st century.