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New research highlights the growing need for palliative care worldwide

January 30, 2014
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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Palliative or end-of-life care provides relief from pain and addresses the physical, psychosocial and emotional suffering of patients with advanced disease. The Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life provides research estimating that nearly 80 percent of patients with advanced disease in low- and middle-income countries do not receive this care. Only 20 countries (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America) have palliative care integrated into their healthcare cultures.

The Atlas, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA), finds that only 1 in 10 patients who need palliative care actually receive it. “The Atlas shows that the great majority of the global need of end-of-life care is associated with noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease,” states Oleg Chetnov, WHO assistant director-general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health, in a release.

The Atlas urges all countries to include palliative care in their healthcare systems. To do so, countries must overcome barriers such as:

  • The lack of policies that addresses palliative care at the end of life and during progressive diseases.
  • The lack of resources to implement the necessary care including the availability of pain relievers and other essential medicines.
  • The lack of information that healthcare professionals and the public are given about palliative care.

“Our efforts to expand palliative care need to focus on bringing relief of suffering and the benefits of palliative care to those with the least resources,” David Praill, co-chair of the WPCA,  commented in a release.

The integration of palliative care globally will be discussed at the 67th World Health Assembly in May.

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