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New approach to health care of older people

16 May 2002 Media Statement

New approach to health care of older people

A new approach to health services for older people is needed to meet the demands of New Zealand's ageing population, Associate Health Minister Ruth Dyson and Senior Citizens Minister Lianne Dalziel said today.

Releasing the Health of Older People Strategy in Wellington, Ms Dyson said New Zealand, like most other countries in the world, has a population that is getting older.

"By the middle of the 21st century, one in four New Zealanders will be 65 years or over, compared with about one in nine now. Increases in the proportion of Maori and Pacific older people will be particularly significant, rising 270 per cent and 400 per cent respectively. We need a new response to deal with this dramatic demographic change.”

Ms Dyson said the strategy provided a much-needed policy framework for the health care of older people, and was in line with National Health Committee recommendations that had been ignored by the previous government.

“The strategy focuses on healthy living, positive attitudes to ageing, and community-level health care and support so that people can continue to live in their own homes and communities as they get older.

“Most older people are fit and healthy. However, a minority are vulnerable and need high levels of care. The strategy covers the full range of services required to promote healthy ageing and provide appropriate care and support for those who need it.”

Senior Citizens Minister Lianne Dalziel said that the strategy was in line with the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy, and gave real impetus to its health and ‘ageing in place’ goals.

“The beauty of the strategy is that it is genuinely centred on the older person and recognises the invaluable role that the family plays. It ensures that health professionals and health service providers work together cooperatively to produce positive health outcomes.

“The key is quality assessment, treatment and rehabilitation services which centre on the needs of older New Zealanders, and the integrated continuum of care that is essential to service provision at every level of the health service.”

Ms Dyson said the strategy set out a demanding work programme for planners, funders and providers of aged health care to develop appropriate services by 2010.

Specific actions to be undertaken by the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards over the next two years include:
- advice on the removal of asset testing and the future funding of long-term care;
- development of guidelines for comprehensive, multi-disciplinary needs assessment, treatment and rehabilitation (AT&R) of older people in a variety of settings;
- a review of specialist health and mental health services for older people;
- an assessment of the options for intermediate-level care between hospital treatment and home-based support;
- development of an expanded role for primary health care, with a greater emphasis on health promotion and preventive care, the role of the community and the need to involve a range of professionals;
- a report on the health workforce needs of the ageing population, including the community and home-based workforce;
- development of specific standards for dementia units and for home-based rehabilitation and home support services; and
- development of District Health Boards’ ability to implement the strategy.

Copies of the ‘Health of Older People Strategy: Health Sector Action to 2010 to Support Positive Ageing’ are available from the Ministry of Health, PO Box 5013, Wellington or on the Ministry of Health’s website: www.moh.govt.nz


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