In an ageing world it is more important than ever that we invest in prevention.
ILC has contributed to this issue by carrying out a big global project on Prevention in an ageing world over the past year.
Through this programme, we have engaged senior policymakers and thought leaders across the world, including alongside the G20 Health Ministers’ meeting in Japan last October, around the need to make prevention across the life course a reality. But despite the clear economic and social benefits of investing in prevention, investment in preventative services remains consistently low at an average of 2-4% of total health spend across OECD countries. [Gmeinder, M., Morgan, D. and Mueller, M. (2017) ‘How much do OECD countries spend on prevention?’, OECD Health Working Papers, No. 101, OECD Publishing, Paris. doi.10.1787/f19e803c-en]
Preventative services are often the first to be cut in times of economic contractions. Currently, we are seeing a delay in the implementation of preventative measures in health systems.
Our report finds that in better off countries, in 2017 alone, 27.1 million years were lived with disability due to a number of largely preventable age-related diseases, with years lived in poor health set to increase by 17% over the next 25 years, if governments fail to prioritise preventative health interventions right across the life course.
Prevention is not just for children. Particularly in an ageing world, it is crucial to prevent ill health as a growing proportion of us will have underlying health conditions. As the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised just how stretched our healthcare systems are, it is alarming to think how we will deal with another 17% increase in underlying health conditions. We have to make sure we are preventing some of those conditions from developing in the first place.
Throughout this project, we have engaged with people on the ground with deep expertise of health systems across the world. Three key priority areas emerged:
- Democratising access to preventative interventions, in order to tackle growing health inequalities;
- Inspiring and engaging people, communities, professionals and policymakers with the need to take action to promote good health and prevent illness; and
- Effectively utilising technology to deliver preventative interventions.
Technology has a big role to play in terms of planning for prevention, especially in the future, and it can range from high tech to low tech. In the first place, we have to ensure we have the relevant data shared and assessed in order for healthcare professionals to make informed recommendations.