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World Health Day 7 April 2012

ICN calls on governments to promote healthy ageing and prevent chronic conditions.

Ageing and health is the theme of this year's World Health Day.  Looking at the age pyramid of our societies we see the number of older people is increasing globally requiring complex care needs.  Part of this demographic change relates to the fact that we are having fewer children.  This means there will be fewer people to provide care for the increased number of elderly with more complex care need.

Although, this population ageing can be seen as a success story for public health policies and for socio-economic development, it also has serious health implications.  The increase in life expectancy results in a greater number of older persons in need of a wider range of health services, including health promotion, illness prevention, rehabilitation, acute/chronic care and palliative care.

This translates to increased cost largely due to increase in disability and non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. However, ageing doesn't have to be a time of illness and disability. Through concerted efforts in disease prevention and promotion of healthy ageing, we can prevent or postpone many chronic conditions and disabilities. 

Moving towards a more positive outlook the risk factors for the many chronic diseases associated with ageing are generally few and can be prevented with few effective interventions. This should make promotion of healthy ageing and prevention of chronic conditions a high priority for nurses.  That is why ICN calls on governments to put policies, programmes and intersect oral strategies to promote healthy ageing and prevent chronic conditions. More than ever there is greater need for health promotion, disease prevention, creating supportive environments, strengthening community action for health, building healthy public policy, implementing early detection and screening, and appropriate care and support programmes for ageing societies. Nurses are key to delivering and coordinating these services.

However, ageing is also affecting the nursing workforce.  Over the next 10 to15 years many industrialised countries will experience a large exodus of nurses from their workforce as nurses retire just at a time when demand for nursing and health care is on the rise.  Finding ways to retain older nurses is a challenge of increasing importance to health systems throughout the world.

Nursing faculty are also ageing.  In many countries today the average age of nursing school staff members is 50.  When combined with a shrinking pool of young nursing teachers, this affects the ability of schools to educate sufficient numbers of nurses to meet current and future demand.

As nurses, we need to be prepared for the future by increasing our knowledge of what ageing means to health care systems around the globe.  ICN is pleased to provide you with some resources on ageing:

Fact sheets:

Position statements

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 June 2013 15:02