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Zimbabwean Island Hospice and Healthcare participates in regional meeting on better health for older people in Africa

Author: Bev Sebastian, Executive Director, Island Hospice and Healthcare
20 June 2017

HelpAge International and partners, in conjunction with Age International and programme partners, held its final annual review meeting for the DFID funded Better Health for Older People in Africa (BHOPA) programme in Dar es Salaam from 22-23 May.

This was followed by an external-facing conference with key stakeholders and policy influencers from across Eastern and Southern Africa where a communiqué was agreed upon by all delegates aimed at providing Better Health for Older Persons in Africa.  

Since 2014 HelpAge Inernational has been carrying out a multi-pronged, integrated policy and programmes approach to improving the health of older people in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The programme, ending later this month, has been  delivered through HelpAge International country offices in three countries and partners in Zimbabwe.  

Centre for Community Development Solutions Trust (CCDS) partnered with Island Hospice & Healthcare in Zimbabwe. Island Hospice & Healthcare used a palliative care approach to support older persons in several districts across the country.

The BHOPA programme aimed to reach 387,763 older people (60% female, 40% male) in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with the overall focus of improving health and reducing poverty.

Activities focused on both the demand and supply side of the health system. While there was an attempt to standardise approaches and outcomes across the countries to allow for comparison, the programme allowed for some degree of contextual adaptability.

One of the key programme outputs was the influencing of policy and practice. Zimbabwe has since reached an advanced stage in developing a healthy ageing strategy.  

The Zimbabwe team – comprised of the Island Hospice & Healthcare Director, Bev Sebastian; Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control at the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health & Child Care, Dr Manangazira; and CCDS Director Marck Chikanza – shared their experience of developing the strategy with the conference delegation. 

Bev in particular advocated that palliative care for older persons be recognised as a core component of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). 

Key points from the communiqué included:

  1. Promote older people’s access to health and care services by working towards UHC including palliative care services; expanding social protection floors including universal social protection coverage; build the cadre and capacity of community and home based cadres to provide care to older people and their family caregivers including strengthened supervision and referral with health systems; and improve age friendliness of health facilities infrastructure.
  2. Improve the quality of health services provided at government health facilities through review and revising training curricula for health workers to ensure inclusion of geriatrics and older persons’ health and ensure that medicines for managing non-communicable diseases, primarily affecting older people, and for other conditions common in older age, are included in the national essential medication lists for all lower-level health facilities, and put in place systems to ensure availability.
  3. Promote healthy ageing to achieve a world in which everyone can live a long and healthy life. Achievable by supporting governments to develop national strategies on ageing; taking action to combat ageism; work towards the establishment and improvement of sustainable and equitable systems for the delivery of long term care; and build an evidence base on healthy ageing including and especially within Health Management Information Systems.

Further resources

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