The adoption of the first-ever palliative care and hospice resolution by the World Health Assembly calling for the integration of hospice and palliative care into national health services reflects growing awareness of the unaddressed care needs for the millions of people worldwide with life-limiting conditions such as cancer, heart disease, HIV, and multi-drug resistant TB.
The resolution outlines clear recommendations to improve access and availability of hospice and palliative care. These include ensuring palliative care is included in all national health policies and budgets, and in the curricula for health professionals. It also highlights the critical need for countries to ensure that there is an adequate supply of all essential palliative care medicines for appropriate pain control for adults and children.
The Sixty-seventh session of the World Health Assembly took place in Geneva May, 19 – 24, 2014. The WHA is the supreme decision-making body of World Health Organization.
The announcement was welcomed by The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance – a global membership of hospice and palliative care organizations from 51 countries of which NHPCO is a part.
Earlier this year, the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance published the first Global Atlas on Palliative Care at the End of Life with the World Health Organization. This report highlighted that 42% of countries have low or no access to hospice and palliative care services and that only 20 countries have palliative care well integrated into the health system. Eighty percent of countries globally have low or very restricted access to strong pain medications which means that millions of people worldwide are living and dying in pain and distress with no or little quality care.
“Increasing access to hospice and palliative care services as part of a seamless continuum of care for people facing serious and life-limiting illness has been a priority among many hospice providers in the United States,” noted J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. “Having global attention on this issue will help make needed progress to alleviate pain and suffering for millions.”
In the U.S., hospice care is a covered benefit under Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans. Access to palliative care services before a patient elects hospice continues to be an area of development in the U.S.
As part of NHPCO’s efforts to help increase palliative care services – which may be provided before a person begins hospice care – the organization is focusing on palliative care provision for its third annual virtual conference. “Hot Topics in Palliative Care” will be hosted via the Internet on July 8 – 10, 2014.
Additionally, NHPCO’s affiliate organization Global Partners in Care is working to build partnerships to enhance compassionate care globally. The organization’s “Partners Program” enables U.S. hospice and palliative care organizations to support hospice and palliative care organizations in developing countries. Partners engage in capacity-building, strategic planning, education, fundraising, and technical assistance to expand and improve services for those in need.