A new report by the Global Coalition on Aging, 21st Century Health System Resilience: Lessons From the Pandemic on Innovation and Healthy Aging explores the imperative for global health care systems to realign in order to accelerate innovation to meet the challenges – and opportunities – posed by the scientific miracle of longevity and the aging of society. The report was made possible through support from GCOA members and a generous sponsorship from Biogen.
The United Nations’ and World Health Organization’s recently launched Decade of Healthy Ageing is a welcome sign that global policymakers understand the need to make health systems more responsive to the demands of aging societies.
According to the report, “Fully aligning health care systems to a world with 2.1 billion people over age 60 by mid-century will require innovation on a massive scale that can only be achieved by fundamentally re-examining the way countries regulate and reimburse the treatments we will need to care for our growing aging populations.”
Most national health systems were created to provide and pay for acute care – where people are treated for brief but severe periods of illness. The “disease-cure” model worked when lifespans were short and diseases of aging were more rare. But it is not designed for a world where billions of people live for decades with steadily worsening conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
The report outlines several potential areas of reform:
- Adopting patient-centered metrics based on functional ability for measuring success in health care.
- Emphasizing early detection and management of diseases to promote functional ability.
- Accelerating innovation across drug development.
- Expanding the discussion to include a broader range of stakeholders beyond traditional health ministries.
- Adopting a more comprehensive approach to valuing new innovations to account for costs such as informal care often required to handle the diseases of aging.
“Reimagining healthcare systems to meet the needs of healthy aging and an overall healthier society has been proven in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael W. Hodin, CEO of GCOA. “Policymakers must recognize the value of these investments and the power that comes with enabling better prevention, diagnosis and treatment. In our aging world, to continually innovate must be a scientific, political and investment priority.”