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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

Dear Editor,


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. These are too numerous to list in this response, but an updated list (142 signatories at the time of submitting this response) is available here. Signatories include Dr Glenda Gray, President and CEO South African Medical Research Council, Prof Jean-Pierre Michel, European Interdisciplinary Council on Aging, and University of Geneva, Switzerland, Dr Cesar Victora, International Center for Equity in Health, Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil and Dr Mary Ann Tsao, Co-President, International Longevity Centre (ILC) Global Alliance, Singapore.


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.


Jane Barratt and Shah Ebrahi

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