This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

The Health of the Global Aging Population

The World Health Organization has put out a new report on global aging and health, hoping to generate a strategy for dealing with a growing population of older people everywhere in the world. Keep in mind that this is a good problem to have. More people living to old age and to increasingly older ages is a symptom of how well we've been able to battle death over the years, especially over the past few decades. But the bigger issue is the health of these folks. How will we treat illnesses and deal with frailty and dementia and other problems associated with aging? The WHO has a plan, as outlined by the press:
The WHO is proposing a five-step plan of action, which includes:
1. Committing to healthy aging and "evidence-based policies to strengthen the abilities of older persons."
2. Aligning health systems with the needs of older populations
3. Developing systems for providing long-term care
4. Creating "age-friendly cities and communities"
5. Improving measurement, monitoring and understanding of "aging issues" worldwide.
These are pretty vague goals, but the report does have specific steps that can be taken. One of the important things that has to happen is that we have to focus on behaviors that younger people engage in that create problems for them as they get older. Diet is one thing, of course, and the increased consumption of meat and processed foods among younger people is a recipe for poor health in the older years. Most important, though, is to stop smoking. Today's Guardian summarizes a paper from The Lancet about smoking in China.
“About two-thirds of young Chinese men become cigarette smokers, and most start before they are 20. Unless they stop, about half of them will eventually be killed by their habit,” said the article’s co-author Zhengming Chen from Oxford University. 
China consumes over a third of the world’s cigarettes, and has a sixth of the global smoking death toll.
China is also on the road to having the largest population of older people in the world, so this is going to be a big issue for them. Resources in China are going to have to be diverted from buying precious metals to buying health care for older men with pulmonary disease and heart disease and all of the other problems associated with smoking. 

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