Over 20 million people worldwide are in need of palliative care at the end of life, with many more needing these services earlier in their illness or as a family member of a seriously ill person. This great need far outstrips the capacity of specialist palliative care services or palliative care professionals. Therefore it is essential that palliative care is integrated as part of national health systems, and also into medical and nursing curricula.
This week, the World Health Assembly will consider the resolution: ‘Strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment within the continuum of care.’ This comprehensive document calls on member states to integrate palliative care into their national health systems.
The resolution mentions a number of levels at which states can act to make sure that this integration takes place. States are urged to:
- Develop, strengthen and implement palliative care policies
- Support palliative care initiatives including education and training, quality improvement and availability of medicines essential for the provision of palliative care
- Provide support to caregivers
- Include palliative care as a part of integrated training including basic training for all medical, nursing, social work and spiritual care professionals, intermediate training for all healthcare workers who routinely work with people with serious illness, and advanced training for palliative care specialists.
- Ensure access to essential medications
- To foster partnerships between government and civil society to increase access to palliative care
- To implement and monitor the palliative care components of the WHO NCD action plan.
Across the world, there are many case studies of countries where this integration is beginning to happen. In Kerala, India, the community-based model of palliative care shows how government and civil society can work together to bring palliative care to all who need it. In Cape Town, South Africa and Kampala Uganda, the University of Cape Town and Hospice Africa Uganda are examples of how palliative care can be part of integrated training, both in terms of basic training for healthcare workers and specialist training of palliative care physicians, nurses and other professionals.
Across the ehospice editions today, we publish further examples of how palliative care is being integrated into health services in different countries and regions of the world.
We hope that the WHA will pass the resolution and that this high-level recognition will encourage countries to provide further support to existing palliative care projects and to create a policy environment that is conducive to the development of future initiatives.