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Forgetting Adult Immunization During Covid-19

Every day the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring on new economic, social and health challenges for all members and especially those most at risk to severe consequences including older persons and those with chronic health conditions. Significant impacts have also been experienced in regular routine health care services including increasingly longer wait times, fear of in-person checkups, and a decline in routine immunizations such as influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, measles, and shingles. The stark decline in routine adult immunizations as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic may not only impose serious implications to vulnerable groups at risk to life altering diseases but also to the health and safety of the general population. In a recent article published through the BioPharma- Reporter, Dr. Friedland, vice president, director scientific affairs and public health at GSK stresses attention to the decline in adult immunizations that may exacerbate serious strains on public health through increased exposure to non-COVID infectious diseases. Furthermore, Dr. Friedland points out that although there are a variety of barriers ‘in more normal times’ that can explain low adult vaccination rates including fear of adverse side effects and vaccine hesitancy, the pandemic has disrupted the vaccination pathway for routine vaccines. There is sustained need to increase knowledge and awareness of the safety, effectiveness and value of routine adult immunizations through the involvement of civil society advocates and public health experts. The International Federation on Ageing, through it is Vaccines4Life platform prioritizes bringing awareness on the safety and effectiveness of adult vaccinations to address vaccine hesitancy, build trust and improve equity among the most at risk groups including older adults. To learn more, check out the resources produced through IFA’s ’60 Second Fact Check: Vaccine Safety for Older Adults’ campaign. To engage in this campaign, contact Ms. Petek Yurt (pyurt@ifa.ngo). On 9 November, the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing will be hosting the first in person and virtual conference entitled ‘Rights Matter’ which aims to build global collective action to fight for the rights of older adults, under the four pillars aligned with the UN Decade of Ageing and WHO Immunization Agenda 2030: ageism, age-friendly cities and communities, primary health care, and long-term care alongside older people and pandemics. Delegates have the unique opportunity to engage, network, and learn from diverse experts from all around the world. To learn more and connect with an expert on this topic, contact Dr. Palle Valentiner-Branth, the Head of Vaccine-Preventable Disease Group of the Statens Serum Institute. He serves as the National Focal Point for vaccine preventable diseases in the European Center of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and is the author/co-author of more than 70 peer reviewed publications with extensive research experience in vaccinology and infectious disease epidemiology.

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Technological advances to improve patient-centered care

As the social restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing nations to live online, Zoom meetings have become the staple of 2020 and 2021. With the increased online presence, supporting technological advances goes hand-in-hand with improving quality-of-life and standards of living. In the realm of healthcare, technological advances offer a way to leverage patient data to improve care. For example, an alert to a physician can be done about a potential adverse reaction to a drug. Technology also contributes to improved patient-centered care by fostering communication between providers and patients via online portals, text messaging, and email correspondence. In an article in Fierce Healthcare titled, “Policies to support data liquidity: improving medication access” The importance of improved healthcare interoperability and transparency is noted by better enabling the sharing of patient data. This improved sharing allows providers to have access to all data for a patient being treated which results in a more effective management and treatment plan for patients. As the pandemic enforces strict social distancing measures, real-time information at the point of care can be critical to patients in understanding their options to afford, access, and adhere to their medication while reducing provider burdeni. Thus, improved data liquidity allows for more ways and choices for patients to own their computable health data and ultimately get help and advice. Proficient data liquidity allows providers and pharmacists to surface patient-specific, relevant health datai. While policies can focus on the socioeconomic aspects including improving equitable access to care, greater data enables patients to better manage their care. Pushing healthcare towards greater data is supported by an article in CIO (Chief Information Officer) as enabling patients with access to their own medical information as a giant step towards improved health outcomesi . While there will be associated challenges including data management on cloud, and ensuring veracity of parties involved, the value-add of better data liquidity goes without question. With the growing ageing population, there is an increased demand for caregivers, yet technology companies have been stepping up to fill this caregiver gap . Technology aids old persons to ‘age in place’ and helps ease the transition to old age by avoiding unnecessary visits to the emergencyii. Applications for medication adherence, and voice command can be particularly helpful for older personsii facing cognitive impairments. Technologies tailored to older persons must remain user-friendly, cost-effective, and simple enough to be easily learnt. To learn more about technological advances supporting older persons, contact Dr. Ad van Berlo, Research and Development Manager at Smart Homes from the IFA Expert Centre. For any questions or ideas to contribute to the conversation on technological advances improving patient care, connect with Ms. Jun Wang (jwang@ifa.ngo), Special Projects Officer at the IFA. i CIO. (2019). The great conundrum of data liquidity in healthcare. Retrieved from: https://www.cio.com/article/3346022/the-great-conundrum-of-data-liquidity-in-healthcare.html ii Health care dive. (2017). How technologies can help the elderly age at home. Retrieved from: https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/how-technologies-can-help-the-elderly-age-at-home/436386/

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Palliative Care: A Holistic Approach to Caring for Older People with Diabetes

As a result of the major achievements of modern civilization, people are now living longer than at any other time in history. In a pre-modern world, our ancestors lived for approximately 30 years. Since 1900, the global average life expectancy has more than doubled and is now above 70 years. Among the older population, life expectancy rates have been improving for many decades now.But does living longer equate to a better quality of life? What about older adults with chronic conditions who need care? Adding years to life is more meaningful when it is supplemented by adding life to years. An article published by Podiatry Today, entitled “When Patients with Diabetes Need Hospice Care” links the rising numbers of older people with diabetes to an increased need for end-of-life care. Contrary to popular opinion, people do not have to be actively dying to qualify for palliative or hospice care. Palliative care is an interdisciplinary speciality that focuses on preventing and alleviating suffering and supporting the best possible quality of life for patients who are facing a serious and/or life-threatening illness.As the older person with diabetes approaches the end of their life, there comes a time when rigorous glycemic control can not only prove to be of questionable benefit but also has the likelihood to cause harm. Many clinicians do not converse with their patients on advance care planning because they are either not familiar with palliative care or are reluctant to discuss the issue. However, comprehensive diabetes management includes palliative care and advance care planning. With comorbidities that shorten life-expectancy, the focus then expands from tight glucose control to encompass informed consent, comfort, religious and cultural values, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs.In a paper published in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Spectrum, the authors explain that many older adults with diabetes experience frailty, and cognitive changes or dementia. They are prone to the unpleasant symptoms associated with these conditions, and consequently often have unmet psychological needs that compound pain and other symptoms. Advance care planning goes hand in hand with palliative care. It is essential that the older person with diabetes together with the diabetes health care team and family members share perspectives and options to enable informed decisions about future care. This brings value and control into the life of the older adult, where they feel seen and heard, and can make their priorities clear such as, dancing at a grandchild’s wedding or attending a graduation.The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing focuses on changing how we think, feel and act towards age and ageing, developing communities that foster the abilities of older people, delivering integrated care, and providing older people with access to long-term care. Palliative care ensures a holistic approach to care that considers the older person’s wants and needs. Ensuring quality of life does not stop at a certain age, it continues until the end.To learn more about end-of-life care for older people with diabetes, contact Prof. Trisha Dunning, Chair in Nursing and Director Centre for Nursing and Allied health Research at Deakin University and Barwon Health in Victoria, Australia, and former Vice President of the International Diabetes Federation, at the IFA Expert Centre, which is an invaluable resource for those interested or involved in the areas of ageing, vision health, human rights, vaccination and more. To learn more about how to contribute to the vital conversation on diabetes and the older person, connect with Dr. Supriya Venigalla (svenigalla@ifa.ngo), and join the DR Barometer community.

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Working Together to Defeat Invasive Meningococcal Disease

April 24 is World Meningitis Day, and on this day, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) together with the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) and Immunize Canada want to remind you that meningococcal disease is a health risk you should not take.

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The IFA has a long established and wide-ranging network of member organizations around the world. The network extends to over 75 countries covering every region. Together these organizations represent over 80 million older people.

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