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Open letter to World Health Organization (and to Member States). WHO must prioritize the needs of older people in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic
With reference to the Covid-19: open letter to WHO and member states (“the Open Letter”) by P. Lloyd-Sherlock et al, the International Federation of Ageing and others have collected signatories to support this Open Letter.
In these unprecedented times, evidence shows that COVID-19 poses a great risk to older people and those with existing chronic conditions.
This platform aims to inform and drive policy discussions through highlighting the views of thought leaders in various associated fields.
Stop the “dreaded duo” of influenza and COVID-19
While many are focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and its serious global and local impacts, we should not ignore the concurrent threat of seasonal influenza. According to the US CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), there were an estimated 39 million cases of influenza illness; 400,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths have been linked to influenza during the 2019-2020 season. Flu season in the US is still going strong and could actually last through late May. Australia and other countries of the south are heading for similar trouble as the oncoming flu season could add further strain to an already overwhelmed health system.There are currently no licensed vaccines or therapeutics for COVID-19. In contrast, vaccines are available for influenza and remain the most effective way to protect against the infection and related life-threating complications. In line with the most recent WHO guidance for immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are advised for people who are at greatest risk of developing respiratory illness, including health workers, older adults, and pregnant women. Australia is proactive in its action to advance the annual flu vaccination period to April, which usually started from May. Health authorities are urging Australians to have their flu shot as soon as possible amid concerns that influenza and COVID-19 can be a quite deadly combination. "This year, because we have a vulnerable population from COVID-19, it's super important that those people get protected from the normal flu”, says Dr Antonio DiDio, the Australian Medical Association ACT branch president. However, visiting vaccination clinics at a time of pandemic might be problematic for people at risk. Contact IFA expert Prof. Ross Andrews for best practice for immunizations in the context of COVID-19, who used to be the Chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), Australia's peak ministerial immunisation advisory committee. Also consider register for IFA “Vaccines4Life Summit” and the IFA Presidential Symposium on Vaccination at www.ifa2021.ngo. You will have opportunity to network with professionals from various fields, understand the burden of vaccine preventable diseases, and share proven best practices and resources to catalyze action.Read More
Inequality to Illness
The relationship between structural inequalities and negative health outcomes has long been established. However, the most vulnerable populations remain unprotected by policies and unaccounted for in national strategies and plans. It is only at times of a global pandemic, when morbidity and mortality rates for older people reach unprecedented numbers, that the consequences of poor social policies and structural barriers become inadmissible. In societies with higher rates of inequality, the lack of affordable housing and increased costs for living means that those on limited, fixed or no income sometimes have to make the difficult decision between eating healthy or having a safe space for the night. In a recent New York Times article, the feedback loop between social inequality and risk for infections was explored. Max Fisher and Emma Bubola, argue that inequalities exacerbate the risk for infections such as COVID-19, which in turn widens social and economic divisions.In many countries the lack of recognition of the needs and rights of older people in economic policies means that older people are often left financially vulnerable. In Ghana, for example, a contributory pension scheme that was introduced to promote financial security in later life, remains inaccessible for the many adults who have never worked in formal employment. Even stakeholder pension systems, as seen in India, that allow people to make regular payments over the span of several years, does not account for the economic reality of so many older adults who experienced life-time poverty. The impacts of poverty can accelerate the physiological and psychological decline experienced with age, placing older people who are economically vulnerable at disproportionately higher risk for infectious diseases.During the COVID-19 pandemic- where death rates are highest among those with poor immunity and underlying chronic conditions - immediate short-term interventions are necessary to stave off the worst of the negative health impacts. IFA Regional Vice President, Dr Vinod Shah, recently reported on the strategies currently in place to protect older people in Maharashtra, India, amidst the COVID crisis. The state of Maharashtra has the highest reported cases of COVID in the country (162), and as such is taking the appropriate preventative measures to protect those at greatest risk. While the State has issued curfews for the population, food and other provisions are being distributed to older persons living by themselves. To protect older homeless people, state authorities and local ageing organizations such as the Janaseva Foundations are working together to coordinate volunteers from the social sectors to distribute food and health supplies, provide shelter for those still on the streets, and secure resources to ensure medical needs are met for all those infected. Older people who experience poverty are not often considered high priority in many nations, however, the disproportionate impacts of large-scale pandemics such as COVID-19 should draw attention to the cumulative effects of inequalities experienced across the life course. Policies that focus on strengthening preventative health measures throughout life are key to building healthier societies and provide the greatest protection against larger-scale pandemics. Lloyd-Sherlock, P., Ebrahim, S., Geffen, L., & McKee, M. (2020). Bearing the brunt of covid-19: older people in low and middle income countries.  Schmitt, C. (2020). The coverage of social protection in the Global South. International Journal of Social Wefare,29(1)6-19  Kpessa, M. W. (2011). A comparative analysis of pension reforms and challenges in Ghana and Nigeria.International Social Security Review 64(2),91-109  Siefert, S. (2018). Chinese and Indian Public Pension Systems and Universal Oldage Security in Times of Rapid Demographic Changes. Contemporary Chinese Political Economy and Strategic Relations, 4(3), 941-XIII.  Gorman, M., & Heslop, A. (2002). Poverty, policy, reciprocity and older people in the South. The Journal of the Development Studies Association, 14(8), 1143-1151.Read More
Older adults and COVID-19. Does the WHO need to prioritize those most vulnerable to the virus?
COVID-19 has gone global – no border, wall or body of water seem to be able to stop it’s spread as it has now reached virtually every corner of the planet.Though all segments of the population need to be deeply concerned about catching COVID-19, and no one is immune nor should feel invincible, it’s older adults, who seem to be in the virus’ crosshairs.A recent article from VOX took a look at four global where the virus has spread:Seniors (70 years old and older) The important stats on older individuals: In Spain, out of 6,152 cases from this group, 3,388 people have been hospitalized, a 55 percent hospitalization rate; 199 went to the ICU, a 3.2 percent rate; and 705 people ages 70 and older have died, a 11.4 percent fatality rate. Italy, China, and South Korea have reported fatality rates from 6.2 percent up to 20.2 percent for people in this age range. I’ll use the 75-and-older numbers from the CDC: For ages 75 to 84, hospitalizations (30.5 percent), ICU stays (10.5 percent), and deaths (4.3 percent) are already high, and the key metrics go up even higher for people 85 and older; 31.3 percent hospitalized, 6.3 percent in the ICU, 10.4 percent fatality rate. One note: The ICU stays could be lower for the oldest people if the disease progresses so quickly that they don’t even have an opportunity for intensive care. Bottom line: There is no need to belabor the point, as I think one thing most people know about Covid-19 is it hurts older people the most. The data bears this out: People in this age group are the most likely to be hospitalized and to ultimately die during this pandemic. March 23 - Vox And recently, Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the IFA recently published a response in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) demanding the prioritise the needs of older people in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In response to the Open Letter, we request the following specific actions by WHO. 1) Its main webpage for Country and Technical Guidance - Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) must include a specific tab leading to guidance of specific relevance to older people. This would lead to the WHO guidance on long-term-care facilities and will also include information about other guidelines for other older people that will be published as a matter of urgency. 2) WHO must immediately appoint a senior member (ADG Level) to lead on older people issues across WHO. Since WHO’s regrettable decision to close its Department of Ageing and Life Course in 2018, it does not contain a senior member with an exclusive responsibility for older people. The newly appointed leader on older people’s health should be provided with a budget, staff and authority to take lead on this issue. 3) WHO must urgently mainstream awareness of older people's specific needs and vulnerabilities across all departments and activities dealing with COVID-19. If you are a journalist looking to cover how COVID-19 is impacting older adults and why that demographic needs to be the focus of governments and healthcare officials – then let our experts who are monitoring this situation around the world help. Each expert is available to speak with media, simply click on any of their respective icons to arrange an interview today. Dr. Mine Durusu-Tanriover is the author of more than 40 peer-reviewed articles, Dr. Durusu-Tanriover's research area mainly consists of acute care and adult vaccination. Dr. Jean-Pierre Michel is a full Professor of Medicine at Geneva University Medical School and head of the geriatric ward – 124 acute care beds including an intensive care unit of 4 beds at the Geneva University Hospitals - Switzerland.Professor Mañas is the Head of the Department of Geriatrics at Hospital Universitario de Getafe (Madrid), President of the Research Committee at Hospital Universitario de Getafe and Professor "ad honorem" of the Department of Medicine of the School of Medicine, Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain. Dr. César Misael Gómez Altamirano is Deputy Director of Coordination and Operation of CONAVA. Dr. Jane Barratt is the Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing comprising government and non government members in 62 countries and representing some 50 million older people.Read More
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Written by Dr. Ruth Warick and Dr. Kathy Pichora-Fuller. Don’t let hearing loss limit you is the slogan for World Hearing Day on March 3rd. These are words to live by that...
You know how one side of your nose gets blocked up worse than the other when you have a bad cold? Well there IS a reason – or so I have just discovered. Did you know that we have a nasal cycle?
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.