The global need for children’s palliative care

Categories: Research.

In the 2015 World Hospice and Palliative Care Day Report, Joan Marston, CEO of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) looks at the research that is presently being undertaken to give more accurate estimates of the global need for children’s palliative care. 

She writes:

Previous estimations on the need for palliative care for children have been based either on mortality or on using data from the United Kingdom to estimate a global figure, however both have limitations. To gain a better picture of the global need, the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) and UNICEF carried out research in South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe into the need and coverage of children’s palliative care services in 2013. Results show the need in developing countries is considerably higher than in a developed country and access to children’s palliative care was low in all three countries – less than 1% in Kenya and less than 5% in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

This research is ongoing in other countries. The ICPCN estimates that the global need for general palliative care for children will be at least 20 million and at least 8 million for specialised services. As only 66 countries have any specialised palliative care services ICPCN estimates that globally less than 1% of children with life-limiting conditions are receiving palliative care.

There are a number of barriers to children accessing palliative care services. Lack of trained health care workers and resources is often quoted, yet Malawi, which is a low-income country has well-developed programmes and a number of trained health care workers. In the experience of the ICPCN, a dedicated and committed leader in a country can develop children’s palliative care to a high standard, even when resources are limited.

Click here to learn more about World Hospice & Palliative Care Day and to download the 2015 report. 

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