Serving and ageing population well an EU challenge

ESN contributed to the European level roundtable ‘Serving an Ageing Population Well: Health promotion at the interface of social and primary care’, on 11 May in Brussels, bringing to the debate the experience from local government in promoting health and wellbeing in an ageing population. Hosted jointly by EuroHealthNet and the European Health Management Association (EHMA), the roundtable discussed health promotion for older people, drawing on experiences from local social and health care actors and finally, potential pathways for future action and support from the EU.

Current research indicates that the number of Europeans aged 65 or more will increase by around 40% in the next 20 years and by 90% by 2060. As a result, total age‐related spending is expected to increase by 4.75% of GDP by 2060 - from around 23.1% of GDP in 2007. The greatest increases will be in pensions, healthcare, and long‐term care.

The roundtable was opened with a presentation by Dr. Jessica Allen, project director on the European Review of Health Inequalities, led by Sir Michael Marmot. This review, commissioned by the European Office of the World Health Organisation examines the social determinants of health and the much-debated ‘health divide’. (See presentation)

There is widespread consensus at the European level that a fundamental reform of health and social care systems is urgently needed to meet the challenges posed by population ageing. But adapting European social and health care models to demographic change to achieve a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ will require optimising and rebalancing resources towards sustainable and integrated approaches.

“Let’s keep encouraging health promotion, but not in one-off projects, but perhaps we should best be doing this in the context of integrating health and social services for older people at a local level,” said Stephen Barnett, senior policy officer at ESN, in his presentation on the role of social services in health promotion for older people.

Sol Wallyn, from the Flemish Agency for Care and Health (VAZG) and European Regional and Local Health Authorities (EUREGHA network) highlighted that expertise in ageing should be a prerequisite for local communities. She also presented a number of practice examples in elderly care in Flanders Region, Belgium. See presentation.

A major part of the discussion focused on the issues around learning from local good practice that has proven to be effective at the national/regional level. The debate also brought forth the tension between the need for action at local neighbourhood level and for support at EU, or national/regional level. Participants also discussed EU instruments that could be better utilised for health promotion and prevention activities at the local level. Download meeting report for the summary of the discussions.

Health and social care coordination is a priority for ESN in the period 2011-13, not least for older people. You can find out more about long-term care for older people in ESN’s report ‘Contracting for Quality’.