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“Our goal must be a world in which good health is a pillar of individual well-being, national progress, and international stability and peace. This cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community, and civil society.”

— Kofi A. Annan, ex-Secretary-General of the United Nations

Make A Difference » Priority Programs 

You can help increase health span along with the life span of older adults in Latin America and the Caribbean

Each year one million people are added to the more than 42 million people aged 60 and older in Latin America and the Caribbean. Between 2010 and 2020, it will increase to two million additional people a year. By 2025, this population of older persons is expected to reach 194 million, and at least ten percent of them will be aged 80 and older. This is an enormous number of people projected to stress and challenge the health care systems throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.


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 Courtesy of Photoshare

Health care workers in the Americas need to be prepared for the challenges posed from growing numbers of older persons, just as this region’s population has to prepare for the added burden of lost productivity at work and home- for both older persons and their caregivers. And in the context of Latin America’s weak economies and growing levels of poverty, older persons in the first decade of this century are likely to have worse health and more disability than their counterparts in developed countries. The aging population of Latin America has been exposed to malnutrition and more illnesses earlier in life, and this has enduring effects on their health status. Numerous barriers prevent access to adequate health care services including lack of information on the aging population and poorly trained primary health care providers.

Chronic disease now makes up almost one half of the world’s burden of disease, and the prevalence of chronic diseases among older persons in Latin America and the Caribbean is significantly higher than in the U.S. and Canada. The number of people aged 60 and over with hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease in Latin America is comparable to the aged 70 and over group in the U.S. and Canada.  These most common chronic diseases can be mitigated by healthy lifestyle choices, yet few developing countries have implemented primary prevention plans. The challenge for developing countries is to reorient health sectors towards managing chronic diseases and the special needs of the elderly.  

In the report entitled, The State of Aging and Health in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in collaboration with the Merck Institute on Aging and Health (MIAH) proposed certain measures to help ensure that older adult health span increases with their life span. These include:

1. Developing guidelines and processes for monitoring health status of older persons and implementing a surveillance system.
2. Promoting and funding a public health research agenda to identify threats to the health of older persons and promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors.
3. Implementing a regulatory and enforcement framework for long term care services.
4. Initiating a program of necessary health services for older persons and strategies to overcome access barriers.
5. Developing a national plan for geriatric training and continuing education for the primary health care workforce.

Older persons in Latin America and the Caribbean need you to help them prevent disease and improve their health.