G20 commitment to prevention across the life course – what happens next

Jul 11, 2019 | BLOG

By: Lily Parsey

In the communiqué published at the end of the 2019 G20 Summit in Osaka last week, leaders have committed to promote “healthy and active ageing through policy measures to address health promotion, prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases… over the life course”.

As societies across the globe are ageing, it is vital to support people to live healthier lives for longer. By doing so we can not only improve wellbeing and enable people to remain active, but can also reduce dependency, bringing down the burdens on health systems.

There is already a consensus that preventing disease and limiting long-term impairment and the compounding impact of multiple diseases are both good for our health and will play an important role in supporting the economic sustainability of health systems.

Our research has shown that among those aged 50 and over in high and high-middle sociodemographic index countries, at least 16% of the total number of years lived with disability are attributable to largely preventable communicable and non-communicable diseases.

In 2017 alone, close to 27,000,000 years were lived with disability, resulting in tremendous losses to wellbeing and productivity. Approximately one-tenth of the total number of years lived with disability can be attributed to cardiovascular disease alone, of which 86% of those affected are 50 or over.

As such, there is a clear case for prevention across the life course. But translating that consensus into sustained action can be challenging. And while we have seen governments endorse the importance of prevention, spending on prevention has been falling over recent years. Looking at trends in spending on prevention across the OECD, annual per capita growth rates (in real terms) were negative in 2009-2011 (-0.3%) and 2011-2013 (-1.2%).

While we know that prevention spending doesn’t tell the whole story – because preventative interventions don’t have to come with large price tags to be effective – governments need to ensure that their stated commitments to promote health and wellbeing are backed with action.

The longer-term gains from prevention are often not seen for years, even decades, after investments are made. The true impact of our current failure to invest in prevention could well be decades of additional health and economic burdens in the years to come.

Health systems have a major role to play in this and need to ensure to include adults in mid and later life in health promotion programmes. Such interventions include targeted screening programmes, preventative medications, supporting people to adopt healthier lifestyles, vaccinations against communicable diseases and supporting people to manage long-term conditions.

It is very promising to see G20 leaders commit to a much-needed focus on prevention across the life course. However, governments must ensure that this commitment is translated into action. The next steps of implementation across G20 countries will be vital in demonstrating that commitment and in ensuring that the benefits of prevention are felt across society.

In a debate in the House of Lords this week, ILC Chief Executive Baroness Sally Greengross argued that the inclusion of preventative interventions across all ages needs to be further promoted in national health systems.

To this end, ILC will be organising a side event alongside the G20 Health Ministerial Meeting in Japan in October to further promote the inclusion of preventative interventions across all ages in health systems at the national level.

For more information about the event, please e-mail LilyParsey@ilcuk.org.uk. 

Lily Parsey

Policy and Communications Officer, ILC

Lily is the Policy and Communications Officer at ILC. She supports the ILC’s policy and external engagement work across all policy areas. She moreover managed the delivery of the Innovating for Ageing Awards, which sought solutions to the problems faced by vulnerable consumers in later life and is currently leading on a global programme on the future of infectious diseases. She sits on the Advisory Board of the Age Action Alliance and was previously the Secretary of the European Nutrition for Health Alliance.