International Conference on Integrated Care focussed on participatory approaches


AGE participated in the 23rd International Conference on Integrated Care (ICIC23) in May to discuss some highlights of interest for older people and promote our work as part of the Horizon2020 project “


With the overarching theme ‘Care in action: how to work together, a participatory approach’, the conference brought together from 22 to 24 May 2023 more than 1200 leaders, researchers, policymakers, clinicians, managers, citizens, patients and caregivers from 55 countries engaged in the design and delivery of integrated health and social care.

The conference held more than 160 sessions and events, with the participation of important speakers as Stefania Ilinca, Technical Advisor on Long-Term Care from WHO Regional Office Europe and Maya Matthews, head of unit and Acting Director on Digital, EU4Health and Health Systems Modernisation from the European Commission, among many others.

The ICIC23 was organized by the International Foundation of Integrated Care (IFIC) in partnership with the Flanders Agency for Health and Care and Visit Flanders took place at Flanders Meeting & Convention Centre Antwerp, Flanders. ICIC23_SN

We participated in this event to support the dissemination of the Horizon2020 project “ValueCare” that we are part together with IFIC and listen to the world’s experts on the importance of integrated care systems for older people. The ValueCare project aims to deliver personalised integrated (health and social) care services, better outcomes for citizens, improved care experience, improved staff satisfaction and greater efficiency in the use of resources and coordination of care.

Integrated care: why is it important for everyone?

Integrated care refers to a coordinated and comprehensive approach to healthcare delivery. It aims to improve patient outcomes and experiences by ensuring that all of their needs are met through a seamless network of healthcare providers and services.

AGE is advocating for a new vision of care as described in our Policy Brief on Care or in the Bay of Care report defending a Long-Term Care Empowerment Model. We call for care systems that empower people at all stages of their lives, enable their participation and support their autonomy.

This conference covered some of these important points and what is needed to make integrated care a reality for all:

  • Change management implementation: enable health and social care integration in different contexts and levels (macro, meso and micro).
  • Person-centred care: focus on integration of goals and needs, letting them be the drive.
  • Collaboration: sine qua no factor for successful implementation of integrated care.
  • Engaging everybody: nurturing caring neighbourhoods and compassionate communities.
  • Population health approach: leverage for integrated care.

Some of the key reflections on these points came from representatives of end-users’ associations. Some of them regarded the concept of “person-centred” as misleading in practice and driving to situations that “put people in a zoo when clinicians, politicians and researchers still think they know what is best (…) we do not want to be only in the centre but driving the car”.

Speaker unanimously agreed that the mission of healthcare system should be to meet the patient and family life goals and empower people by:

  • Allow them to live as long as possible (until death is preferable);
  • Experience the best possible quality of life as defined by each of us individually;
  • Optimize personal growth and development of each citizen, empowering them;
  • Living in dignity until the end.

“Connect (establishing trust), Cocreate (developing a mutually acceptable and actionable plan) and Collaborate (constructing a network to support the plan) with the patient and their family” should be the starting point to change the system towards a more human and effective healthcare delivery according to James W. Mold (author of Goal-oriented health care).

Integrated care and value-based care delivery systems allow older people to be empowered through:

  • placing who is in need of care, their families and communities, at the core of system design and organization rather than focusing on illnesses and disabilities;
  • allowing those receiving care to express their own needs and choose their own priorities through a process of information and shared decision making;
  • emphasizing the creation of cooperative environments.

Caring neighbourhoods

Another key takeaway of this conference was the importance of cultivating caring communities that do not replace the role of healthcare services but work alongside with them. The goal of a caring neighbourhood is to make sure people in need of care can keep on living in their trusted environment.

Caring Neighbourhoods build on the triangle of care, housing and social relationships. A neighbourhood that supports ageing well not only pays attention to professional and informal care and assistance, but also to issues linked to social relationships such as civic engagement, community cohesion, safety, friendly interactions, and a pleasant neighbourhood. It should aim to overcome stigma associated with frailty and caregiving.

Housing and the physical infrastructure of the neighbourhood are equally important as care services to promote healthy and independent ageing. Yet, they are frequently disregarded as we highlight in The Covenant on Demographic Change publication. A home tailored to a person’s needs in an age-friendly community setting with, for instance, consideration for mobility and accessible walkways is one of the key steps in ensuring good quality of life in later life. A good example of an impactful initiative presented at the conference by Age-Friendly Ireland was “Healthy Age Friendly homes programme”, which has changed the life of hundreds of older people.

That being said, we should not forget that “Social security remains the necessary institutional instrument to combat lack of access to quality care. No warm solidarity (i.e. engagement of citizens for their community) without cold solidarity (i.e. structural, institutional basis)” as stated by Dr. Liesbeth De Donder, Head of the Centre of Expertise on Compassionate Communities at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Reflections and Balance

The three-days-conference was inspiring and provided food for thought. ValueCare project was presented in three workshops and enthusiasm was shared for a world where integrated care and value-based care is a reality. We also had the opportunity to attend a workshop where it was presented the Bay of Care report defending a Long-Term Care Empowerment Model, to which AGE contributed in 2020.

We believe that care should support everyone to participate, be included in society and continue doing the variety of things they like, on an equal footing with others and at all stages of life. This involves having a voice and being free to make choices (self-determination). Care should meet people’s diverse needs and support people to age well, not just safer or in better health. The IFIC conference highlighted how integrated care practices could contribute to make this a reality.

You can re-watch some parts of the conference here.

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