Washington, D.C., 5 April 2012 (PAHO/WHO) -- Increased life expectancy and a growing population of older adults in the Americas presents challenges as well as opportunities to take actions in the region to ensure their health. This is the appeal of Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO on the occasion of World Health Day, which this year focuses on healthy aging.
With the theme “good health adds life to years,” WHO has chosen aging as the focus of World Health Day, this 7 April, in order to show how lifelong good health can contribute to a full and productive life in later years.
In 2020, the Americas will have 200 million older adults, almost twice the figure for 2006, with more than half living in Latin America and the Caribbean. By 2025, 69% of people born in North America, and 50% of those born in Latin America, will live past 80.
Increased life expectancy and the growth of the older adult population has brought with it a transition in health characterized by an increase in noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, among others) and disabilities, and a higher demand for health care. In most of the region, older adults usually spend the last seven to nine years of their lives in poor health.
“This dramatic shift presents us with a window of opportunity to focus new attention on healthy aging. By making adequate social and health investments now, we can promote longer, healthier, and more active lives, while ensuring that aging populations do not become an economic burden for countries’ development,” said the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, in a recorded message.
The challenge for the countries of the Americas is to ensure that people have longer, active, and healthy lives. The priorities for achieving this are to:
- promote health throughout life
- redefine aging
- ensure access to primary health care and long-term care
- create welcoming environments for older adults that encourage their good health and participation in society.
“Healthy and independent older adults are an invaluable resource for development and they contribute to the well-being of the family, the community and society in general”, said Dr. Enrique Vega, PAHO/WHO’s Adviser on Healthy Aging. “With the democratization of longevity and greater opportunity to live, it is imperative to embrace new concepts on aging, focused on rights, development, and participation, that inform medical practice and public health,” he added.
“For the Pan American Health Organization and its member states, this day marks the start of a year of reflection, work, and celebration, dedicated to promoting lives that are not only longer, but also more active and healthier,” asserted Dr. Roses Periago in her message.
World Health Day is held each year on 7 April to commemorate the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948.
In observance of this day, PAHO/WHO has organized several events in the countries of the region and at its headquarters, in Washington, D.C., in order to promote the sharing of ideas and partnerships for activities that ensure healthy aging.
“Starting today, let’s make every year of our life count. I invite you to join in efforts for an increasingly long, active, and healthy life in the Americas,” said Don Francisco, the host of Sábado Gigante, in a recorded message very much in keeping with the subject of this World Health Day. Mario Kreuztberger, better known as Don Francisco, has been a Champion of Health of PAHO/WHO since 2005.
This 12 April, PAHO/WHO will bring together the health authorities of the countries of the region and experts on the health of older adults at its Headquarters, to discuss ways to include healthy aging on the region’s development agenda and in public health policies. In the afternoon, it will sponsor a health promotion event for older adults in the community of Washington, D.C.
This week, the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval L. Patrick proclaimed 7 April 2012 to be World Health Day and urged citizens to participate in the day’s events dedicated to promoting healthy aging.
PAHO was established in 1902 and is the longest functioning public health organization in the world. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and raise the living standards of their peoples, and it serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.
- PAHO-World Health Day
- WHO-World Health Day
- Message from PAHO Director, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago
- Message from Don Francisco