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Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life

dianagosalvez Diana Gosálvez Prados last modified 29/01/2014 10:21

Palliative care, while still a relatively new component to modern healthcare, is increasingly recognised as an essential part of all healthcare systems. Despite this, it is widely acknowledged that there is still inadequate access to hospice and palliative care worldwide, and with an ageing population who are going to be living and dying with more complex conditions, the demand for care is only going to increase.

Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life. London: World Health Organization (WHO); Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance. 2014. Available at: http://www.thewpca.org/resources/global-atlas-of-palliative-care/



Now, for the first time, they have a resource that attempts to quantify the need for and availability of palliative care worldwide.

It is important to acknowledge that, while the atlas focuses on the need of patients at the end of life, many more people early in their course of illness, as well as family members and carers, could also benefit from palliative care, and therefore the real need is much greater. Historically, hospice and palliative care programmes have focused on the needs of cancer patients known to have high symptom burdens. However, the majority of those needing palliative care worldwide suffer from non-malignant conditions, which are defined in this atlas. We hope we can encourage countries to ensure that efforts to expand palliative care include these patients with other life-threatening illnesses who also suffer during their treatment, illness, and end of life. WHO has focused in recent years on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases and now has a major initiative to address the burdens of non-communicable disease. Palliative care is needed for these conditions, but what is also needed is for the global community to work together to help prevent early mortality from communicable and non-communicable diseases. Palliative care, while vital at the end of life, also has a key role to play in this prevention.

Their efforts to expand palliative care need to focus on bringing relief of suffering and the benefits of palliative care to those with the least resources. This will take courage and creativity as we learn from each other how to integrate palliative care into existing but very limited healthcare systems. This global atlas shines a light on the need for palliative care globally, and serves as a baseline, against which to make measurements, in order to advocate for increased access.

World Health Organization (WHO); Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance