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At Madrid forum, UN agency unveils plan to promote healthy ageing

At Madrid forum, UN agency unveils plan to promote healthy ageing

As the United Nations forum on ageing continued its work in Madrid, Spain, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) today unveiled a new plan to help countries design policies in a rapidly greying world to enhance the health of older persons while promoting economic development.

"A healthy population is a prerequisite for economic growth," WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland stressed at a press conference this afternoon at the Second World Assembly on Ageing.

Dr. Alexandre Kalache, Coordinator for WHO's Ageing and Life Course Programme, added that the right policies would benefit all people. "They will lead to fewer premature deaths in the highly productive stages of life… fewer disabilities, and more people enjoying a positive quality of life, and actively participating in society as they age," he said, noting that costs related to medical treatment and care would be lower.

UN experts estimate that by 2050, there will be nearly 2 billion people aged 60 or older worldwide, with 80 per cent of them living in developing countries. Those nations will face a heavy double burden of both infectious and non-communicable diseases, while often lacking sufficient resources, including comprehensive ageing policies, to cope.

According to WHO's new policy framework, the challenges posed by ageing can be surmounted by promoting healthy lifestyles and appropriate preventive action. Its recommendations include addressing factors that contribute to the onset of disease, controlling tobacco use and alcohol abuse, and ensuring that appropriate nutrition and healthy eating starting at an early age.

In other news from the conference, the Assembly has decided to split into two groups to work separately on outstanding issues in the Plan of Action and Political Declaration to be adopted at the end of the week.

Working Group I, chaired by Morocco, has been holding informal consultations on the remaining 10 per cent of the 117-paragraph action plan yet to be agreed on. Working Group II, chaired by Uruguay, has been meeting on the 17-paragraph Declaration, which is still largely under negotiation, according to a UN spokesman in Madrid.

Some of the remaining contentious issues include debt relief as a prerequisite for developing countries to address the impact of population ageing and migration flows, and the economic needs of ageing immigrants. Other subjects include the needs and rights of the ageing workforce and the implementation and monitoring of the action plan, including resource allocation and international cooperation and follow up.