WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 96-101

Meeting the current and future health-care needs of Sri Lanka’s ageing population

1 Base Hospital, Pimbura, Agalawatte, Sri Lanka
2 Youth, Elderly and Disability Unit, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Correspondence Address:
Dilhar Samaraweera
Base Hospital, Pimbura, Agalawatte
Sri Lanka
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206259

PMID: 28607235

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Sri Lanka is one of the fastest-ageing countries in the world. This rapid demographic transition is expected to result in one quarter of the population being elderly by the year 2041. Profound challenges face the country as a result, especially with respect to planning adequate elderly-oriented services in the social-care and health-care sectors. In response to this need, many initiatives have been put in place to promote and protect the welfare of older people, and these rights have been inscribed in law. Within the health sector, despite the wealth of policies and initiatives in recent years, it is clear that the existing health infrastructure and systems still require strengthening, reorientation and coordination, to meet the needs of the growing population of elderly individuals. Lessons learnt from the successes in reducing the maternal mortality ratio can be applied to strengthening preventive services at the community level, to ensure active healthy ageing in Sri Lanka. Engagement of specialist medical officers of health and general practitioners to provide preventive and curative primary-care services would reduce current pressures on higher-level services. Expansion of dedicated elderly-care wards and units at the tertiary level would restructure care towards changing patient demographics. The key to success in these strategies will be increasing the proportions of the medical, nursing and allied professional cadres who have been trained in geriatric medicine. Such capacity-building in the care of the elderly will allow a move towards provision of multidisciplinary teams that can manage the complex physical, social and psychological needs of the older patient.

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