The concept of ‘premature mortality’ needs to be either abandoned or redefined if it is not to discriminate against older people, a new report argues.
The United Nations defines premature mortality as deaths occurring among people aged 69 years old or younger from non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease and dementia.
One of the main health targets included in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is to reduce premature death by a third before 2030.
However, academics from the University of East Anglia (UEA), writing in the British Medical Journal, have warned this target sends out a clear and unambiguous statement to UN member states that health provision for younger groups must be prioritised at the expense of people aged 70 or over.
‘The implications for all countries, the UK included, is that resources allocated to conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia should be diverted from older people in order to comply with this global target,’ said Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, professor of social policy and international development at UEA’s School of International Development.
‘The World Health Organisation cannot continue to take this unethical and discriminatory approach. The SDGs are the key reference point for global health over the next 15 years and must jettison this ageist approach.’
Commenting on the issue Chris Roles, managing director of the charity Age International, said: ‘There is a need to rethink how we measure progress on tackling non-communicable diseases in all parts of the world.
‘A focus on premature mortality discriminates against older people and doesn’t move us towards more effective management of multiple conditions, which is a critical priority for many people in later life.’