Advances on science helped lengthened the years of life, but aging is now increasing the burden of non-communicable diseases in the Region of the Americas

30 Jun 2023
Photo of an elderly woman and an elderly man showing

Washington, DC, 30 June 2023 (PAHO)- Aging is associated with an increased burden of non-communicable diseases, and therefore population growth and aging should be factored into healthcare planning. This is one of the main findings of a recent study done by PAHO experts and published in The Lancet Regional Health Americas.

Public health programs in the Americas have led to improvements in water and sanitation, undernutrition and prevention and control of vaccine-preventable and other infectious diseases, and people living healthier lives. Improvements in living standards, socioeconomic status, and nutrition have led to an increasing burden of NCDs. NCD prevention and control therefore rightly focuses on lifestyle risk factors and social and commercial determinants of health. There are few published data on the importance of population growth and aging as a contributor to the regional NCD burden.

Titled The rising burden of non-communicable diseases in the Americas and the Impact of population aging: a secondary analysis of available data, this study suggests that, as the pace of aging in the Americas increases, the demographic realities of population growth and population aging should be factored into healthcare planning. This will allow an understanding of the evolving NCD burden and its implications such as health system needs, and the readiness of governments and communities to respond.

The study used the United Nations population data to describe population growth and aging over 2 generations (1980-2060) for 33 countries in the Americas and used the World Health Organization estimates of mortality and disability (disability-adjusted life years, DALYs) to describe changes in the NCD burden between 2000 and 2019.

The authors combined these data resources and analyzed changes in the number of deaths and DALYs to estimate the percentage change due to population growth, population aging, and epidemiological advances, measured by changing mortality and DALY rates.

This work highlights the importance of decision-makers considering the projected impact of population growth and aging on NCDs in the Region as they seek to improve healthcare planning.