Governments failing to respond to needs of ageing population, says OECD

By on 18/01/2016

Governments around the world are failing to respond to the needs of an ageing population, according to a recent OECD report which calls on health systems to improve their use of big data.

In its paper Ageing: Debate the Issues, the OECD argues that health care systems often focus on “episodic care needs” instead of managing “complex combinations of chronic conditions” as often occur with elderly people.

Health and social care systems are, according to the report’s chapter Health systems are still not prepared for an ageing population, “grappling with how to manage the diversity and uniqueness of this complex combination of diseases and care needs in an effective way.”

One example of this struggle, the report says, is dementia.

It is estimated that 47m people suffer from dementia worldwide at the moment and the figure is expected to rise to 76m by 2030.

In the OECD, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden and Norway have the highest prevalence rate, with 6.3% to 6.5% of the population aged 60 years and over now estimated to live with dementia.

While the OECD welcomes global efforts to try to find a cure, it warns that “the lives of people living with dementia remains poor in most countries.”

To change this, the report calls for governments to better train their doctors and caregivers; to equip them with better tools to assess the needs of people with dementia; facilitate improved care co-ordination – particularly across health and social care services; and encourage a better focus on measuring outcomes for people with dementia.

It says that “underpinning some of the difficulties of health systems in addressing population ageing is a failure to understand and monitor adequately the care processes through the data we have today.”

In an era of big data, the report adds, health systems remain poor at using the massive amount of administrative, clinical, population-based, and biological data that are routinely generated from the millions of contacts individuals have with different parts of the health system.

Storing and linking these data would display a more granular picture of the quality of the care delivered to patients and improve care for old patients with complex care needs, the report argues, and concludes that “addressing weaknesses in the governance of this data infrastructure will be key priorities for the future.”

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World – the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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