World Hospice and Palliative Care Day spotlights “Hidden Patients”

Categories: Community Engagement.

The theme for this year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, to be held on 10 October 2015, is ‘Hidden Lives / Hidden Patients’. Commemoration of the day will focus on the patients living in unique conditions who often struggle with access to palliative care. In Africa, some of these groups include:

  • The elderly
  • Mentally and physically challenged persons
  • Religious leaders infected with HIV
  • The homeless
  • Persons with substance abuse addictions
  • Closed or difficult to reach communities, including the LGBT and commercial sex worker communities
  • Traditional healers
  • Refugees and internally displaced peoples (IDPs)
  • Children who are incarcerated with their mothers
  • HIV prisoners
  • Soldiers and those living in rural settings.

The World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2015 report: Hidden Lives, Hidden Patients, focusses on the patients living in unique conditions who often struggle with access to palliative care, including people with dementia, LGBT individuals, people living with HIV, people with disabilities, prisoners and those living in rural settings.

Children are often neglected and ‘hidden’, with over 20 million children worldwide needing a palliative care approach.

42% of world has no delivery system for palliative care, and in 32%, services reached only a small percentage of the population. 80% of the world’s population lack adequate access to the medications needed for palliative care and to treat their pain.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality of Death Index report, released ahead of World Day, illustrates a great disparity in access to palliative care, with higher-income countries clustered at the top of the ranking. However, the report also shows the value of “of innovation and individual initiative,” with countries such as Mongolia, Panama and Uganda ranking relatively highly due to advances in teaching, national policy and opioid availability. 

Palliative care should be available for all with life-limiting illnesses, regardless of age, race, disease, gender, sexuality, or where they live. The aim of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day is to raise awareness and understanding of the needs – medical, social, practical and spiritual – of people living with a life limiting illness and their families.

The Day provides an opportunity for local and national hospice and palliative care organisations to raise funds to support and develop hospice and palliative care services.

In palliative care, no one should be invisible. There are ‘hidden patients’ with ‘hidden lives’ for whom the need for palliative care is not recognised. Children are often neglected and ‘hidden’, with 21 million children worldwide needing a palliative care approach.

Liz Gwyther, Chair of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, said: “The Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life estimates that worldwide over 40 million people would benefit from palliative care (20 million of these being at the end of life). However, less than 10% of the need for palliative care is currently being met.

In regards to access to palliative care services for children, Joan Marston, CEO of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network, said: “Access to palliative care for children is poor in many parts of the world. Whilst acknowledging that in some countries children’s palliative care is well developed, in the majority of countries this is not the case.

“Therefore it is essential that we use World Hospice and Palliative Care Day to advocate for the development of children’s palliative care globally and that we continue to do this until every child who needs it is able to access high quality palliative care.”

What can you do to get involved?

There are many things you can do during and in the days leading up to World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. Visit the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance website to find out how you can get involved and to find promotional materials to use to plan your own events at www.worldday.org.

Do you have an article to share about your work with ‘hidden patients’ that you’d like to have featured on the Africa edition of ehospice? Contact the ehospice Africa editor to share your news. 

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