Ageing in the spotlight of the 2023 European Public Health Conference

At the 16th edition of the European Public Health Conference in Dublin (Ireland), we discussed and showcased the preliminary outcomes of the ValueCare project that defends an innovative vision for health and care, emphasizing the tangible value offered to older individuals and the outcomes that truly matter to them.

The theme of the European Public Health Conference 2023 last November was “Our Food, Our Health, Our Earth: A Sustainable Future for Humanity“,  focusing on gender, healthcare delivery, digital tools, and workforce and skills required for quality of care. The event also looked in depth at the climate emergency, and very specifically at the human food supply in times of war in Europe. It brought together academics, health and social professionals, government representatives, leaders, policy experts, civil society representatives, and professional organisations. And for the first time in 16 editions, Healthy Ageing and older people’s rights came under the spotlight on several occasions!

Healthy Ageing, a top priority

During the first morning session, organized by the European Commission and the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, the audience was asked about the topics the European Union should prioritize based on importance and the added value it can provide. An overwhelming 58% of academics, health professionals, and policymakers present in the room suggested that addressing the demographic change in Europe should be one of the top priorities.

A key highlight was the dedicated session by the WHO Regional Office for Europe on Healthy Ageing, which presented the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030), exploring the opportunities and challenges presented by current demographic trends.  The World Health Organization also referred to ‘The Lisbon Outcome Statement’ as a crucial milestone to make healthy ageing a concrete reality in Europe. This statement gathers the key priorities and actions outlined during the Regional summit on policy innovation for healthy ageing in the WHO European Region held in Lisbon, Portugal, on 10–11 October 2023.

Another noteworthy moment was the launch of the Healthy Ageing through the Life-Course section of the EUPHA – European Public Health Association. AGE, as an important stakeholder, will contribute to this group of experts that aims to cover a range of topics, including mental health & well-being of older persons, measurement of healthy ageing and data monitoring, economic implications of population ageing, healthy diets and nutrition, geroscience, ageism, age-friendly environments, integrated care, non-communicable diseases, digital literacy and digital health, and health and care workforce. The plan of activities proposed were of many kinds from the research and evidence generation to policy advocacy and support of national healthy ageing programs.

Recommendations for integrated health and social care

As Europe’s population continues to age, acknowledging the invaluable contributions of older people to our societies and advocating for a life-course approach to healthy ageing, is crucial. Improved healthcare, a skilled health and care workforce, and innovative models such as the value-based care model promoted by the Value Care project will be prerequisite for overcoming challenges and leveraging opportunities. Under value-based care agreements, older people‘s outcomes that truly matter to them are at the centre of health and social care delivery.

Together with our partners in the ValueCare project, we shared the first draft of policy recommendations with the project consortium and some participants of the European Public Health Conference. These recommendations to policy makers outline a pathway for the delivery of integrated health and social care for older adults, supported by digital solutions and anchored in a human rights-based approach.

A final consensual version of this document will be finalized in 2024, after further discussions with policymakers and stakeholders at local level (on pilot sites), and with AGE members.

The lessons learned from the ValueCare project and the future exploitation of results will be compiled in a book scheduled for public release by September 2024.

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