'Only top one per cent of world's population adapted to longer, healthier lives'
There are significant health and wealth inequalities between countries at the top and bottom.

ACROSS the world, because of demographic change, people are living longer but not necessarily better lives.

As countries across the world grapple with the impact of ageing societies, the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC) recently launched its Healthy Ageing and Prevention Index which ranks 121 countries across six key metrics: lifespan, healthspan, work span, income, environmental performance, and happiness. The index gives a bird's eye view of how countries across the world are futureproofing for longer lives.

The index pulls data from the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, the World Bank, Yale Environmental Performance Index, and the United Nations.

Investing in healthy ageing, and preventative health in particular, is not only an investment in health systems but has ripple effects across the economy, environment and well-being, too, says health researcher

It found that:

1) The countries ranked in the index's top 10 are Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Australia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland.

2) Of the top 20, only a third are non-European. These include Singapore (ranked 5th), Australia (ranked 6th), Canada and New Zealand (jointly ranked 11th), Israel (ranked 13th), and Japan (ranked 17th)

30 There are significant health and wealth inequalities between countries at the top and bottom of the index:

* Only 1.1 per cent of the world's population rank in the top 10, and just over a quarter rank in the top 50. This demonstrates significant inequality, whereby a relatively small proportion of the global population benefits from better health, wealth, and societal conditions.

* There is a 24-year gap in lifespan between the top 10 and bottom 10 countries.

* There is a 21-year gap in healthspan between the top and bottom 10 countries.

Further analysis by ILC, the leading think tank on longevity, finds that countries that are healthier also have higher per capita incomes, and those with higher environmental performance scores are also happier.

Alongside the index, ILC has brought together a coalition that calls for greater investment in preventative health interventions, such as vaccinations, early detection and management of disease to drive better outcomes in health, and by extension economic and environmental performance.

The purpose of the index is to hold governments to account on healthy ageing and their level of investment in prevention as well as to identify areas for improvement and inform policy:

The United States, China, and India have the largest number of older adults across their populations and could significantly benefit from investing in healthy ageing and disease prevention but are ranked 31st, 50th, 102nd, respectively.

If the UK's target of five extra healthy years by 2035 was met in 2019, it would be the best-performing country, jumping 27 places from its current 28th position on the healthspan metric, ahead of Japan, the healthiest country on the index. But unless the UK ups its current spend on prevention from 4.8 per cent of the overall health budget to six per cent, this is an ambition that feels increasing unlikely as the target date approaches.

The index will be launched as an interactive online tool alongside the World Health Assembly on May 23, 2023.

Arunima Himawan, senior health research lead at ILC argues:

"The Index's biggest strength is that it can, in a very simple and compelling way, tell a story. It shows us that investing in healthy ageing and preventative health in particular is not only an investment in health systems but has ripple effects across the economy, environment, and well-being too.

"For too long governments have failed to invest adequately in preventative efforts and if we don't shift course, we will pay the price. We know that a focus on prevention rather than cure is cheaper and better for the individual and society. We know what works. Now we need to see action."

Stephen Burke, CEO of Hallmark Foundation, which is co-funding the index, said:

"Countries have a lot to learn from each other about how their populations can age well and live longer and better lives. The index will prompt governments and policymakers to ask the right questions, see what works and take action to address health inequalities. Ageing well requires new approaches across the life course. Investing in prevention will have long-term economic and social benefits for many generations to come."

The Healthy Ageing and Prevention Index is made possible by charitable support and grants from Amgen, GSK, Hallmark Foundation, MSD, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

Source: WHO

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