Health Issues for Aging: Prevention

Introduction

The population in the U.S. and world is rapidly aging. Globally, for ten years from 1990 to 2010, the number of people aged 60 and more grew from 487 to 754 million (Prince et al., 2015). The trend is concerning, to say the least, and the issues that it poses multiply. Various countries adapt their policies in order to cope with the health problems aging people experience, and it proves to be rather costly for the budget. It appears that a new policy is needed in order to address both the problems of the vulnerable population and optimize expenses. It could be assumed that a stronger disease prevention policy for adults and older adults could help increase the health conditions of those groups and decrease their own and budgetary health expenses.

Literature review

Prince et al. (2015) state that the leading disease burden among people aged 60 and older in both low-income and high-income countries is cardio-vascular conditions. The scale of the issue is mostly attributed to the flaws in self-care such as inadequate diet, unhealthy habits, and overall health-negative lifestyle. In addition, it is often mentioned that the cost of care for such patients is rather high. Despite the volume of funds that are spent on cardiovascular disease (CVD) management and the advancements of modern medicine, mortality rates in patients with CVD are 48% in women and 46% in men (American Heart Association, 2015). Cancer is another issue that is found to be the leading cause of death in older adults. Thus, 63% of all cancer cases are diagnosed in people aged 65 and older (Prince et al., 2015). Cancer also has a high mortality rate and the expenses on its management are not the only problems that patients and financial systems face. Suffering and pain also burden older people who have cancer.

Modern technology can mitigate the symptoms of both CVD and various cancer types, but complete healing is either not affordable or not possible. Due to the great discomfort and high cost of treatment, Prince et al. (2015) suggest that alternative policy interventions should be adopted. Today, most of the efforts are concentrated on helping older adults cope with their diseases through increasing the affordability of the insurance and broadening the coverage of the latter. Both Prince et al. (2015), WHO (n.d.), and ASTHO (n.d.) agree that prevention is the new strategy that could help address the issues arising in both the older and adult population. Additionally, such policy could be able to reduce the financial burden on the state and a federal budget that now constitutes around $1.5 trillion in the U.S. alone (ASTHO, n.d.).

The prevention strategy incorporates a range of measures that can help reduce the incidence of a variety of diseases and conditions including CVD and cancer and improve the overall health of the population of all age groups. Ensuring healthy practices are adopted and utilized by people at earlier ages will increase the percentage of healthy people aged 60 and above (Prince et al., 2015; WHO, n.d.). ASTHO (n.d.) also notes that prevention should be multi-leveled and comprehensive in order to be effective and yield results in older people.

Attempts to Incorporate the Solution into Public Policy

The issue of prevention as a general measure to enhance the health and wellbeing of the population has been not once considered by different states and the federal government. Several tactics were implemented in order to promote healthy dietary habits and physical exercise. The national school lunch program (NSLP) is an example of such intervention. This program targets the younger population in order to promote healthy eating habits at an early age in an aspiration that they will be followed later in life. Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a policy initiative introduced by the US Department of Health and Human Services with assistance from the US Department of Agriculture. It targets a variety of populations including adults and older adults in order to increase their awareness towards a healthy diet that prevents a range of diseases ranging from coronary to psychological issues.

The Transportation Bill of 2005 also illustrates a policy that is connected to disease prevention. It influences the health and wellbeing of the population by encouraging the use of public transport. By using its services, people engage in approximately 30 minutes of physical activity that is vital for CVD prevention.

Barriers to Implementation of the Solution

Despite the high importance of prevention policies, there are several barriers to their implementation. The first is the relatively low impact of the strategy from a short-term perspective. To ensure the participation of many agencies a policy has to have measurable and concrete results. The weight of healthcare prevention policies in health outcomes of the older population could be difficult to prove and measure. Another problem that such policies could face is the adherence of the public to them. It is rather difficult to persuade a person to follow guidelines or use public transport if he or she does not want to do it. Additionally, the public often applies insufficient pressure on media and government to implement prevention policies (Roberto et al., 2015).

Options for Public and Private Funding

Funding for prevention initiatives often comes from public reserves. Since it is an issue that targets citizens the government should be allocating resources to care for its population and former tax-payers in the face of the older population. However, Roberto et al. (2015) suggest that philanthropic organizations and private sponsors may engage in public health prevention initiatives. They could also act in tandem with government structures. Private donations, however, constitute quite a low percentage of prevention activities funding. One of the largest organizations in the U.S. that has the capacity to fund disease prevention is CDC, which is financed mostly by states and the federal government (CDC, 2017).

Recommendations

The CVD and cancer incidence in older adults could be lowered if more funds were allocated to the prevention of unhealthy habits that are developed earlier in life. The first priority is to further increase the awareness of risks and consequences of such habits in the period of seniority among the younger population. It is also paramount to elaborate tactics that would effectively address the adherence of the population to the existing healthy guidelines. Another recommendation would be to engage public and private media and businesses in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle more actively with the stress on outcomes in the senior age.

Conclusion

Prevention is a strategy that could potentially decrease the prevalence of major disease burdens in older adults by developing healthy habits in the population at their earlier stages of life. Policies that work for prevention should become the priority among federal and state-financed healthcare agencies. Despite the barriers towards their implementation such as assessment issues and weak advocacy, private and public organizations should work together towards building a healthy nation.

References

American Heart Association. (2015). Heart disease and stroke statistics – At-a-glance. Web.

Association of State and Territorial Health Offices (ASTHO). (n.d.). Prevention policy statement. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017). 2017 fiscal year annual report. Web.

Prince, M. J., Wu, F., Guo, Y., Robledo, L. M. G., O’Donnell, M., Sullivan, R., & Yusuf, S. (2015). The burden of disease in older people and implications for health policy and practice. The Lancet, 385(9967), 549-562.

Roberto, C. A., Swinburn, B., Hawkes, C., Huang, T. T., Costa, S. A., Ashe, M.,… Brownell, K. D. (2015). Patchy progress on obesity prevention: Emerging examples, entrenched barriers, and new thinking. The Lancet, 385(9985), 2400-2409.

World Health Organization (WHO). (n.d.) Preventing chronic diseases. Web.