Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
Aging and health: a shift in the paradigm. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2000, vol.7, n.1, pp. 60-67. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892000000100021.
The aging of the population due to increasing life spans requires a reevaluation of the health care models that prevail in the countries of the Region of the Americas, given that the illnesses typical of old age make up an ever-increasing share of the morbidity burden. The countries in the Region are in an intermediate stage of demographic transition. They face the challenge of balancing priority care for the health problems characteristic of developing countries along with care for the chronic and debilitating diseases that afflict the elderly. An even greater challenge is gauging, in a timely manner, the health, social, and economic consequences of the demographic transition over the next millennium, to allow the countries to respond to these consequences through an in-depth restructuring of their health and social services. The extension of human life imposes a new vision of the health of the elderly that is oriented toward self-sufficiency, economic independence, and living life to its fullest. It will not be easy to integrate this new paradigm into the countries' health services, which are now primarily oriented toward curative care and are structured to fulfill the requirements of an epidemiological scenario that is undergoing a rapid transformation. The challenge is even greater because of the wide range of needs that the elderly have across countries with varying degrees of development. Nevertheless, sooner or later the governments of all the countries of the Region will be forced to adopt concrete measures to deal with the problems posed by the population's gradual aging.