First-of-its-kind report provides policy makers with a road map for better care of Fiji’s ageing population
The once young populations of Pacific Island countries are now ageing rapidly. In Fiji, the number of persons aged 60 years and above is expected to triple between now and 2050. This change in population structure will mean increased demand for health care services and Fiji’s health system will need to adapt to ensure it best supports older adults’ health care needs. A new report aims to help policy makers know what’s required.
Health concerns linked to ageing include declines in mobility, sensory and cognitive function, and an increased risk of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease. These all create significant challenges for under-resourced health care delivery systems.
In Fiji, the ability of health system planners to guide appropriate and effective models of care to support healthy ageing has been hindered by a lack of knowledge of what’s needed and what works for the care of older persons in the local context. To support the Fiji Ministry of Health & Medical Services and the Fiji National Council for Older Persons to identify opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of older Fijians, we undertook an assessment of national health policy, programs and services strengthening needs to support healthy ageing – the Healthy Ageing Fiji study, a first of its kind in the area of ageing in the Pacific Islands.
Key findings include:
- Despite the high (and growing) demand for health services in the older Fijian population overall, significant geographic and gender-based inequities in access to health care among older adults were evident: older men used health services notably more often than older women; older adults living in rural and maritime locations were less likely to access facility-based care than their urban counterparts; and older women living rurally were the least frequent users of facility-based health services
- Informal family and community caregivers of older adults expressed a need for improved access to educational resources, training and basic health supplies to support their provision of care at home, and clearer pathways to referral and support services.
- There was a noted absence of mechanisms to effectively drive a multi-sectoral response to population ageing. Although the Fiji National Council for Older Persons (active since 2012) holds a remit of strengthening multisectoral partnership and collaboration to enhance opportunities for healthy ageing for all Fijians, their impact has been hindered by limited political leadership on ageing policy issues, availability of practical context-appropriate models, tools and accountability frameworks to support implementation of multisectoral action, and an inability to mobilise the required financial and other resources to operationalise the national ageing policy framework.
The research informing this report was a joint effort by study investigators from the Fiji Ministry of Health & Medical Services, The Pacific Community, The George Institute for Global Health, Fiji National University and the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.